The Western Cape Department of Health had embarked on the journey of an affirmative action programme using skills development intervention in the year 2009 with a measurable result of sustainable employment.

This programme brought about a business case that skills development does have a positive impact on the workforce profile for employment of persons with disabilities. The analysis of the occupational categories of the employees ranges from administration, technicians and associated professionals and the minority of employees with disabilities being in the category of labourers and related work. This numerical target includes all categories of disability.

The focus is on the candidate with a disability who is suitably qualified and has the ability to meet the inherent requirements of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. Though there is a constant move afoot to improve the representation of employees with disabilities in all occupational categories, it remains a challenge due to the lack of skills and competency in specialist areas and the fear of disability disclosure in the workplace.

A skills development intervention has become a key intervention of choice to increase the numerical target, other than disclosure and traditional recruitment and selection, in an effort to achieve the 2% numerical target set by Employment Equity for government departments. A second skills development project funded by the HWSETA, which started in April 2013, will significantly impact on the numerical target in the financial year ending 2014.

The aim of the project is to employ 80% of the learners into permanent positions where they have successfully concluded their learnership/ internship and have been performing duties according to a given job description, performance management and development plan set for them at the beginning of the programme.

On a daily operational level, disability disclosure has further increased the numerical target for disability by 19%. The impact of skills development programmes also boosted the confidence in the existing employees with disabilities, who otherwise would not have disclosed their disabilities due to fear of rejection and stigma.

The increase in the numerical targets for disability has brought on a need to do a comprehensive disability sensitization programme for all senior to middle and line management staff for the financial year ending 2014/2015.

The challenges that remain in the employment of persons with disabilities include environmental accessibility, traditional recruitment and selection processes, fear of disclosure, advocacy and lobbying to create a barrier free working environment for employees with disabilities within the Western Cape Department of Health.

Waseema Herabai – Assistant Director: Special Projects