Reintegration of Persons with Disabilities
Gauteng Department of Education

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
Employees with disabilities face extreme social economic, political levels of inequality and discrimination contributing to underdevelopment, marginalization, unequal access to resources and lack of service provision. Gauteng Department of Education has employed more than 80 000 employees, both the support staff and the educators. In 2014 it had only 1% of persons with disabilities in its employ. It was noted that some employees due to their illness/disabilities applied for the incapacity leave. It should however be noted that Incapacity leave is not a right but a privilege and thus most of the employees owed the Department because the leave was not granted by the department as per the recommendations of the Health Risk Manager. According to the policies of the Department, no learner must be left without educator for more than 20 days, as result the Department incurred additional cost for the payment of the substitute educators who had to replace those on incapacity leave. The number of educators applying for the incapacity leave is on the increase and these educators are ignorant of the policy and are not aware that they may owe the Department if the leave is not granted. Some educators are afraid to return to their jobs because of the impact of their disabilities. To curb fruitless expenditure on the part of the Department and also to alleviate the impact of the disability and avoid unnecessary debt on the part of employees, the Transformation Section initiated a project on the Reintegration of employees with disabilities. It had to ensure that different stakeholders buy into the project and also promote the transformational goals by eliminating the stereotypes and negative attitudes other employees/ school communities have towards a person with disabilities. It was also noted that visual impairment and mental illness among the employees is increasing at a fast rate. There are more than 800 employees for each disability. These employees cannot be given medical boarding due to a number of reasons. The Department had to be innovative and create a new solution when reintegrating this category of employees. These employees were a burden to their school managers, colleagues, their families and society at large. They were continuously absent from work resulting in low morale among colleagues. They could no longer honour their contractual obligation of educating the learners. They found it difficult to continue playing their role of providing for their families. They also incurred a lot of debts for themselves due to medical bills. Their families needed psycho-emotional support in order to cope with their family member. In some instances some of these employees are breadwinners thus their illness impacts negatively on the families. The Department failed somehow to provide quality education to leaners due to high absenteeism and kept on providing substitute educators. Substitution resulted in a lack of stability in teaching and learning leading to underperformance of learners.. There is a lack of access to government services which makes People with Disabilities less employable, which results in a vicious cycle of poverty and illness for them.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
• Reintegration of employees through the implementation of the reasonable accommodation by: - modifying the working conditions in an attempt to alleviate the impact of the disability, - the provision of the assistive devices where necessary and: - eliminating the social barriers through disability awareness sessions

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
The Department seeks to address the following objectives: • Promote public education and awareness of disability rights as a human right and developmental issue. • Promote the rights of people with disabilities amongst staff and the public so as to overcome ignorance, prejudice and discrimination against people with disabilities. • Ensure public awareness of polite terminology about people with disabilities. • All structures and staff of the department will attend specific training on the knowledge, awareness and practice of disability rights. • Prevent discrimination against people with disabilities in Department. • It is also to empower those involved in the employment processes with the necessary tools and mechanisms that are geared towards eliminating all forms of discrimination and to create a positive environment for persons with disabilities in the classroom, the workplace etc. The programme created a platform where employees with disabilities could be consulted on what the department could do to assist them to regain their dignity and become economically active citizens. Those employees who were taking advantage of the system by continuously being absent from work, were discovered and duly punished. The gaps that were excitant within the department around ill health leave management were addressed as proper evidence of adherence to the department’s leave policies was needed when this process of reasonable accommodation was to be successfully implemented. The issues of disability were mainstreamed in the department through ensuring that all relevant line functions participated in providing reasonable accommodation for an employee. For example if an assistive device like a laptop with a voice/speech for a visually impaired employee has to be procured the Information technology directorate will be informed and within their budget will provide for such an equipment. More employees with disabilities came forward to disclose their disabilities resulting in the number of employees with disabilities increasing. This was as a result of the awareness advocacy strategy that involved workshops/trainings, printing and distribution of flyers and usage of the department’s electronic communication to mention but a few. It is not difficult to appoint a person with disabilities since the managers they are on board if not they are aware of the section that can assist with recruitment and selection process of the person with disabilities. Employees with disabilities, who were granted the incapacity leave are now aware where to get help and that has reduced absenteeism and resignations. Number of employees with disabilities needing help is increasing and their peers/ fellow colleagues are willing to embrace them and help with the reintegration. The Department can account for the whereabouts of its employees and involvement of the families in taking care of their member. Some of these employees were assisted through involvement of the social services, lawyers, legal services, school governors in an attempt to ensure that the solution reached for reintegration must be to the advantage of the affected employee. Some cases include persons with mental health illness and some have been discovered that they are no longer in the position to make decisions that will benefit themselves or their families, through the Department’s legal services they are assisted to apply for curatorship. This motion helps their families and the affected person can be taken care of by the appointed curator.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The initiative is innovative because it creates a clear consultative platform for employees as they are expected to invite their peer/ union member/ or family member when attending a consultative meeting. It enables them to be part of the process that will address their challenge and contribute in the decisions that will be arrived at. This action helps the employees to be calm and have trust in the employer. Some employees, due to previous interaction which resulted in unwelcome outcomes, need a person with their interest at heart to help them to understand better the discussions and to help them to arrive at appropriate decisions. The presence of the peer/ union member/ or family member shorten the period towards finalising the reintegration process. Consultative meetings help to establish the kind of help needed by an individual. Home visits are conducted for employees who cannot attend the consultative meetings due to their medical conditions. The school communities are capacitated on reasonable accommodation (affirmation of persons with disabilities) and how to handle different kinds of the disabilities. This helps to curb unwanted attitudes and stereotypes among the communities. Communities embraced the process as they were made aware that ‘ABILITY IS NOT GUARANTEED’. No employee with disability is redeployed to special schools (learners with disabilities) however they are integrated in the public ordinary schools to promote inclusion. The Department has reintegrated more than 25 educators who are visually impaired to teach sighted learners. They are provided with an assistant who will assist with administrative work in and outside the classroom. Visually impaired employees have been provided with voiced computer and scanners and also trained on how to use these gadgets. Educators with speech impairment were provided with mic and an amplifier to assist them when teaching. The Department partnered with the Government Occupational Therapists in State hospitals, who help with the Functional Competency Assessment and provide comprehensive reports that are used to guide the process of reintegration. This promotes intergovernmental collaborations. The Department partnered with attorneys from PRO BONO.ORG and the South African Federation for Mental Health to assist the employees that can no longer be gainfully utilized and are mentally incapacitated. They help them to apply for the curatorship on their behalf or advise their families to apply. This makes sure that these employees will be taken care after they are medical boarding

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The Department of Education Established a Directorate called Transformation. This Directorate was established to look at Disability issues, Gender issues and employment equity. This section drives the Transformation and promotes the social cohesion within the department and in schools. It is staffed with 11 personnel (Director, 3 Deputy Directors, 6 Assistant Directors and 2 Support Staff) that take care of the entire Department. These functions are centralized. The workforce population of the Department is above 80 000 and 75% are educators and 25% are support staff. 80% of these employees are based in schools. The Gauteng Department of Education population comprises 2025 schools, over 2 million learners, parents and school governors.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
A year schedule based on the monthly consultative meetings has been developed and communicated to internal stakeholders namely the district Human Resource Transversal Services. As per the directorate’s service standards monthly invitations are sent to the affected employees 14 working days prior the meeting. In all consultative meetings the Employee Health & Wellness officials form part of the meeting to allay the fears of the affected employee. All the deliberations of the consultative meeting are minuted and made available to the affected employee. In order to promote transparency, after every consultative meeting the affected employee is given a letter which summarises the resolutions of the consultative meeting which they have to acknowledge. The Health Risk Manager’s and Occupational Therapist’s reports form the basis of the discussion and support strategy. In some instances the department does not only rely on the PILIR report but on disability that is evident. Currently the Department is busy customizing the policy to suit the sector and this policy incorporates GDE Disability Rights Policy, Employment Equity Policy, Sexual Harassment and Gender Equality & Women Empowerment Policy. Roadshows with principals & managers are conducted to empower them to implement, monitor and support the reintegration process in their institutions. Subsequent to reintegration, employees are trained to address social barriers, eliminate stereotypes and empower them. In some cases employees are referred and or accompanied to medical centres for occupational assessment to guide the process of reintegration. After identifying the needs of the affected employee, to promote disability mainstreaming, the relevant directorates are informed to provide as per their line function. Different resource committees have been established to assist the process such as reskilling of an educator and provisioning of other assistive devices. Advocacy is also done through distribution of flyers on disability rights and employment equity policies. To date 100 000 flyers have been printed and distributed to schools and other departmental offices. Since visually impaired educators are reintegrated in the mainstream schools the process is open and recruitment of the teacher assistants is done by the school governors. They have been provided with guidelines for recruitment, adverts and contracts. The teacher assistant’s stipends are paid through the Gauteng City Region Academy (GCRA). GCRA is tasked with raising funds through the various the Skills Education Training Authorities (SETA) that promote projects dealing with disability and youth empowerment. Together with these assistants, the visually impaired educators are trained on how to use the assistive devices such as the voiced computer. The directorate has budgeted for training materials, flyers and monitoring of the project.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Department consulted with the organized labour fora on different policies that seek to accommodate employees with disabilities. Policies are GDE Disability Rights, Employment Equity Plan 2015-2020 and Policy for Reasonable accommodation and Provision of assistive devices to persons with Disabilities. Union representation also form part of the consultative meetings held with the affected employees Internal Sections within the Department: Budget that addresses disability needs is decentralized among these sections or units Performance Management Services: It assists with the guidelines used to develop job descriptions and the necessary amendments for employees with disabilities Employee Health and Wellness: Provide Psycho-emotional support to the affected employees and also extend the support to their families. Fleet Management Section: Developed a Transport Policy that is accommodative to employees with disabilities Facilities: They improve accessibility to the physical structures of the Department (Offices and schools) Recruitment & Selection: Policy and Process on Recruitment and Selection to accommodate persons with disabilities. IT services: They procure IT resources for employees mainly educators IT support: They reskill employees and provide technical help. This section is decentralized across the province and thus support is provided quickly. Gauteng City Region Academy: Pay the stipend of the Teacher Assistants Human Resource Administration: They identify vacant post in case an employee can no longer perform the job they are appointed for and formalize the placement. The alternative placement does not disadvantage the employee in any way. There is no reduction in the employee’s salary Inclusion and Special Schools: They also capacitate officials on disability issues Legal Section: Facilitate the promotion of accessibility to information and provide legal advice in cases that involve external attorneys. They also initiate the curatorship for mentally incapacitated employees since they cannot be reintegrated back into their workstations School Governors: they are capacitated to eliminated stereotypes on disabilities and some do provide budget to procure assistive devices which benefits the employer and the affected employees Immediate Managers: included to implement the outcomes of the consultative meetings, support monitoring and develop a close up reports. Close up reports help to establish if the reintegration process was a success or not. Wits University: Share information with us on how to assist different forms of disabilities Associations for/of Persons with Disabilities: Share information with senior managers within the department on how to assist persons with different forms of disabilities South African Federation of Mental Health: To build capacity on mental health to managers Families/ Siblings: They help to advice the affected employee to make decision and to provide support Occupational Therapists: They help to provide the Functional Occupational Assessment Reports which are used on how to reintegrate an employee with a disability and which assistive devices can be procured for them Head of the Department: providing a strategic direction and influencing the implementation of the project through positive talks

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
Successful outputs: 1. Reintegrated approximately 600 employees with disabilities of which 420 are women. This output seeks to promote goal 1: to end poverty in all its forms. The integration enabled them to continue being economically active citizens thus ensuring that their dignity and self-worth are maintained.This output also assisted in promoting goal 5 which seek to eliminate any form of discrimination against women. 2. Consultative meetings conducted on monthly basis seek to address goal 3. Employees are advised on their healthy lifestyle, continued optimizing their treatment and encouraged to register for disease management services provided by their medical aids and or health institutions. Affected employees are also advised to apply for the reports generated by the Health Risk Manager as per the Promotion of Access to Information Act. This process also addresses goal number 16 which seek to develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels. 3. Conduct disability awareness workshops and to date more than 25% of workforce has been reached. This seeks to address goal number 4 where lifelong learning opportunities are created and promoted. This will also ensure that participants acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, suitable lifestyles and human rights. Attendees at these workshops are empowered on social, political and economic inclusion of person with disabilities thus addressing goal 10. 4. Improved mainstreaming of disability within the department. All policies in the department are disability sensitive and thus promote goal 10 reducing inequality within the Department and ensure equal opportunities through eliminating discriminatory laws. To eliminate discrimination recruitment and selection guidelines for teacher assistants were developed to guide school governors

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
• Breaking silos – through conduction roadshows and holding bilateral meetings with different sections in the department, managers are beginning to understand the significance of mainstreaming disability. Quarterly meetings are held with the disability forum in the department to monitor and continue to capacitate middle managers. • Change of conditions of services for educators to assist these to do the administrative jobs - Some educators cannot be reintegrated due to the huge salary earned and also they do not possess skills for the new job and reskilling is costly. Due to the nature of the sector they are provided with medical boarding. • Reintegration of severe mental illness – defaulting from taking medication/ MDD & schizophrenic. These are offered Ill-Health Retirement and assisted to apply for curatorship. Mental Health awareness sessions are conducted. • Unions view these sessions as disciplinary hearing meetings – continuous capacity building sessions for union leadership is done to assist them to view this as beneficial to the employee. • More staff needed to reach more employees that need support - capacitating school principals on Reasonable Accommodation to cascade • Capacity building for the project team- continuous in house training is done • Confidentiality – service Charter was developed and all official were made to sign a confidentiality pledge. • Timeframes taken to reintegrate an employee were longer – involved more experts and ground work is done prior the consultative meeting with the affected employee.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
1. A number of employees with disabilities are disclosing their disability because they will be assisted with assistive devices and or reasonably accommodated. This assists in retaining more employees with disabilities and alleviates the burden to the system, and eventually the country. 2. Morale has improved for both the manager and the affected person since the affected is are gainfully utilized and no longer pitied. There is an improved self-esteem among employees with disabilities as their colleagues; family and society now perceive them as their equals rather than a charity case. Their new found confidence has resulted in them becoming disability champions in and out of the department to an extent of referring other cases for the support. 3. Cost of paying ever sick employees or people applying for incapacity leave have been reduced which resulted in more educators being appointed. The number of employees owing the Department due to unapproved incapacity leave or non-compliance with the leave policies has reduced thus eliminating financial stressors and medical bills leading to improved quality of teaching and learning. 4. Some schools have started to reasonably accommodate the affected employees on their own. They budget to procure assistive devices and revamp their building structure to accommodate the affected employee. This is evidence of the level of acceptance and support that the department has instilled among its managers at various levels across the province. 5. The mainstreaming of disability is encouraged through ensuring that the line function participates with reasonable accommodation. This has led to the core function of the Department which is curriculum delivery improving since the needs of an employee with disabilities are addressed quicker. 6. Reduced the vulnerability of people with disabilities, improved confidence and families regained respect and dignity. The advocacy

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
With the involvement of various directorates/units in the process, it has ensured that each is accountable and there is an improvement in the manner in which the various cases are addressed. The turnaround time in managing the leave process and there is improved transparency. Employees are informed timeously of the outcome of their leave application and that is done in writing which can be used for litigation should they not be happy. The consultation sessions where the employer and the employees discuss reasonable accommodation are minuted and the employee is given the resolutions of the meeting binding both parties. The fact that there is an increase in the number of employees who have disclosed their disabilities since the project/programme started is indicative of the department’s integrity. Employees are always informed that they can access the Health risk manager’s reports as per Public Access to Information Act where they can apply through the Legal directorate of the department. Labour formations are also invited to be part of the consultation sessions or in other instances some employees involve their own attorneys. If an employee cannot be provided with reasonable accommodation the decision is communicated and reasons provided so that they can contest the decision through the various departmental dispute resolution processes. Some cases are forwarded to the directorate by through other means besides the PILIR process such as telephonically, via email by either their supervisors or the employees themselves. Employees are free to raise their dissatisfaction on the non-delivery of service by the various units such as HRTS, facilities with the Head of the Department. The department is assessed through performance management tools such as MPAT (Monitoring of Performance Assessment Tool) and the fact that we participate in such competitions is evidence enough that we are a directorate of integrity which is accountable to the public.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
The programme even addresses concerns of the employees on the lowest occupational levels such as general workers who are also reskilled to enable them to continue being economically active. The directorate has also engaged the legal fraternity to assist pro-bono with legal support for families of employees with mental disabilities by providing financial security through curatorship and access to the social workers once the employee is medically boarded to avoid them being cheated of their livelihood. With the composition of the department being predominately women, more of the beneficiaries of the programme are women. The programme also ensures that the employees and their families benefit from the department’s psycho emotional support programme. In the event an employee cannot afford to pay for their medical expenses a letter of referral is generated for them to access such a service at the public hospital. Through the advocacy programme employees on the lowest occupational levels, most of whom are illiterate, are sensitized on the importance of medical aids and wearing of protective clothing at work. The programme has ensured that women with disabilities are employable despite their disability as the department has to adjust the facilities and provide resources for the employee to be gainfully utilized.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Gauteng Department of Education
Institution Type:   Government Department  
Contact Person:   David Makhado
Title:   Education Research and Knowledge Management  
Telephone/ Fax:   0113550560
Institution's / Project's Website:  
Address:   No. 6 Hollard Street ,Marshalltown
Postal Code:   2001
City:   Johannesburg
State/Province:   Gauteng

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