Benefits of Supported Employment

Supported employment is an evidence-based practice in which direct support professionals (DSPs) help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) find, secure, and maintain competitive jobs alongside other members of their community. With this support, those individuals with IDD who are willing and ready to work can quickly find jobs that might otherwise be difficult to attain.

Supported employment is not a new practice. In fact, the number of individuals receiving this support has climbed significantly over the years. An early study of this support system found an increase in persons using supported employment rising from less than 10,000 in 1986 to more than 140,000 in 1995. The popularity of supported employment has only continued to climb since then, providing even more employers with talented, eager employees.

While there are many benefits of supported employment for persons with disabilities, perhaps the biggest benefit is that it is often the first step toward a better quality of life.

Why is supported employment important?

There are many benefits of supported employment for individuals with IDD and for the health and human services organizations that support them. These benefits include:

Expanded service offerings

Supported employment is a great way for health and human services organizations to expand the services they provide to individuals with IDD. Individuals with IDD frequently report a desire to work in their communities as a way to increase their earnings, gain respect, and improve the quality of their social relationships. By offering supported employment services, health and human services organizations help these individuals find meaningful employment and thrive in a professional setting.

Improved employment outcomes

Supported employment leads to more competitive, higher-paying employment opportunities for individuals with IDD compared to other job-readiness training programs. One study published in the National Library of Medicine found that between 40% and 60% of individuals enrolled in supported employment successfully obtain competitive employment, compared to less than 20% of similar individuals not enrolled in a supported employment program.

Economic independence

Individuals with disabilities live in poverty at almost twice the rate of those without disabilities. In fact, individuals with disabilities make up only 12% of the U.S. working-age population and account for more than half of those living in long-term poverty. These numbers are supported by the fact that only 32% of working-age people with disabilities are employed compared to 73% of those without disabilities. As a result, more than 65% of the 17.9 million working-age adults with disabilities participate in at least one safety net or income support program. Supported employment helps bring individuals with IDD out of poverty, reducing or eliminating their need to rely on social services. It also helps health and human services organizations alleviate the strain on their other program offerings while helping individuals with IDD create more fulfilling lives for themselves.

Confidence and sense of self-worth

With the right guidance and support, anything is possible for individuals with IDD. Supported employment helps individuals with IDD prepare for and attend an interview, connect with their employers, and perform their duties with attention and care, boosting their confidence in their abilities. It also focuses on finding jobs where individuals with IDD are working alongside peers without disabilities, further increasing their sense of self-worth.

Make the most of supported employment

Supported employment is an effective method for helping individuals with IDD improve their quality of life through competitive employment opportunities. It also empowers health and human services organizations to expand their programs and increase client satisfaction.

Nellie Galindo

Product Marketing Manager, Relias

Nellie Galindo received her Master of Social Work and Master of Science in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has worked with individuals with disabilities in several different settings, including working as a direct service provider for individuals with mental illness and leading a youth program for young adults with disabilities. She has facilitated and created trainings for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in the areas of self-advocacy, healthy relationships, sexual health education, and violence and abuse prevention. Galindo has worked in state government helping individuals with disabilities obtain accessible health information in their communities, as well as utilizing the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure equal access to healthcare services.

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