Evaluation of a Supported Employment Program Implemented by Jerusalem ELWYN for People with Mental Retardation

The supported employment program enables people with mental retardation to work in a job in the regular market, by providing appropriate training and support, and supervising each participant as needed.

This report is the fourth in a series examining alternative employment opportunities for people with mental retardation. It was preceded by Sheltered Workshops for the Mentally Retarded; Evaluation of a Training and Employment Development Program in Sheltered Workshops; and An Evaluation of a “Continuum of Employment Services for the Mentally Retarded” aimed at developing a comprehensive employment model for people with mental retardation.

The goal of the current study was to learn how Jerusalem ELWYN has implemented its supported employment program for over ten years, and to examine the program’s success. At the time of the study, 120 people, 85 of them with mental retardation, were participating in the program. Among the key findings:

  •  Jerusalem ELWYN has developed a unique model, which includes training the participants in the community before they begin working; a candidate assessment process including defined criteria for admission; and a strategy of recruiting employers to hire people with mental retardation.
  •  Employment programs for people with retardation often shut down after a short period of time. This program is unique in having succeeded in implementing the program for over ten years.
  •  One objection raised against employing people with retardation is that they fail to stay in their jobs for any length of time. In ELWYN, participants remain in the program for 3 years or more.
  •  The average cost per participant is less than that of sheltered employment programs.
  •  The program has a positive effect on participants’ work hours, salary, self-image, motivation to work, and satisfaction with work.

The findings indicate that in order to develop supported employment, the Social Work Regulations need to be amended to include a special reference to supported employment. The Ministry of Labor has formulated a model of a continuum of employment services, which is currently under discussion in the Ministry of Finance. The findings of this study are compatible with this proposal.

The findings were presented to the Research Committee of the Shalem Foundation, and at the Third National Conference on Caring for People with Mental Retardation, which was attended by people interested in developing supported employment programs elsewhere in Israel.

This study was commissioned by the Division of Services for Mentally Retarded Persons of the Ministry of Social Affairs and the Shalem Foundation, and funded with the assistance of the Shalem Foundation.