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The Multiregional Operational Program Fight Against Discrimination “ACCEDER”

31 March 2006

Actions aimed at the Romani Community in Spain1

A significant number of individuals belonging to the Spanish Romani community of over 650,000 people are currently experiencing serious difficulties to access employment and vocational training – a problem which is one of the main causes for their inequality and social exclusion. Prejudices and stereotypes that have led to the stigmatisation of Roma by the majority have contributed a lot to this situation. The ACCEDER Programme presented in this article provides a unique opportunity for the current generation of Romani youth to have access to the labour market and equal opportunities as any other non-Romani Spanish citizen.

The actions under the Operational Multiregional Programme “Fight Against Discrimination” (O.P.) “ACCEDER” are aimed at increasing opportunities for the integration of the Romani community in Spain. The Programme is aimed preferably at the Romani community but also envisaged participation of up to 30% of non-Roma. The Programme aimed at involving 15,000 Roma and ensuring a minimum of 2,500 labour contracts in the period 2000-2006. In order to do so, a methodology based on the individual needs was developed including the following types of actions: 

  • Sensitising and awareness-raising of young Roma (above 16 years old) and their families about the availability of guidance, training and job search processes;
  • Providing guidance for defining the content of the individual employment pathways for training and job search;
  • Labour market research focusing on economic sectors in which Roma may have adequate qualifications; contact with enterprises to build bridges between employment opportunities and unemployed Roma. Once the matching process is completed, follow up and assistance to the newly employed Roma and to the entrepreneurs, especially in the beginning of the process;
  • Training to improve the employability of Roma: bricklayer, shop assistants, general delivery, store unloading, cleaning services (hotel, domestic or industrial cleaning), air conditioning installer, cook assistants, etc.)
  • Promotion of positive experiences of social intervention with the Romani community in relation to labour insertion, along with exchange of good practices aimed at promoting labour insertion of Roma;
  • Creation of an information system – Monitoring Centre on Roma Community Labour Insertion – which provides information on developments in the employment situation of Roma.2
    When implementing a project targeting both the Romani community and the society at large, dissemination activities have a key role. Bringing examples of good experiences opens up Roma persons’ awareness of possibilities for employment and training as ways of promoting themselves in society.

The Programme’s priorities

Although actions themselves are directly run by the Fundaciόn Secretariado Gitano, the definition and establishment of priorities have been consulted with various representatives of Romani organisations in Spain.

The main priority is to promote and launch labour insertion actions such as individual employment pathways and the development and improvement of human resources. This priority has three dimensions: 

  • promote access of Roma to regular employment;
  • launch community services aimed at improving the quality of life and specially, advancing the social integration of the Romani community;
  • foster more active and targeted social and cultural policies with respect to the Romani community at the level of regional and local governments.

Objectives and strategy

The main goal is to promote equal opportunities for Roma to access the labour market. The achievement of this goal relies on an integrated and multidimensional approach, including the following elements:

  • Development and improvement of the employability or labour insertion capacity of the Romani community by facilitating their access to vocational training and local and regional employment resources, and eventually, to the labour market. Individual treatment is essential in this methodology, beginning with an initial diagnosis of the employability conditions of each person and designing appropriate measures and steps needed to improve the individual’s access to employment;
  • Development of new jobs within the community services, fostering more active policies targeting the Romani community. Community services should address social integration issues which are crucial for the Romani community.

Mobilising resources

Actions within the ACCEDER Programme were assigned to the Fundaciόn Secretariado Gitano (FSG) with consideration of this entity’s experience in the field of vocational training and employment.

In order to implement the Programme, 45 integrated employment units were set up throughout Spain. These units are located in accessible places for the Romani community and have a staff of 5 professionals in charge of running the Programme at the local level (one manager, two labour counselors, one mediator working with employers and one intercultural mediator working with the Romani community).

Establishing partnership relations at various levels is a major guiding principle in the implementation of the Programme. Following this philosophy, the Programme has involved various entities and operates in synergy and complimentarily with other initiatives with similar aims (other Operational Programmes of the European Social Fund, EQUAL Initiatives, regional and local programmes, and national programmes).

Key aspects which guarantee the success of the Programme

  • Financial support from more than 100 public administration departments at national, regional and local levels, in the areas of social policies, vocational training and employment;
  • Involvement of entrepreneurs, media and other entities;
  • Leading role of the target groups and their representative entities (Romani associations, social networks, etc.) in the development of the Programme’s actions;
  • Setting up of Monitoring Committees involving over 100 entities from all over Spain. The aim of these Committees is to disseminate information and to guarantee full transparency of the Programme’s actions.

The process

In the beginning of 2006, the Programme has entered the last year of its implementation and the quantitative results of the implementation reinforce the relevance of its methodology. The Programme’s evaluation allows us to highlight its impact in at least three areas: 

  • Improvement of Roma employability conditions achieved through training and job experience of the clients of the 45 guidance and employment units throughout Spain. Such intermediate results constitute small but important steps towards the elimination of discrimination of Roma in their access to the labour market;
  • Raising awareness and sensitising institutions about the need to adapt the training and employment systems to the specific situation of the Romani community in order to improve access of Roma to public services;
  • Raising awareness in the general society and among entrepreneurs. Although there is still much to achieve in this respect, we have witnessed attitude changes, mainly due to concrete personal experiences of relationships with Romani people and due to campaigns and production of documents challenging stereotypes and ignorance about the Romani community.

In spite of the overall positive evaluation of the Programme, we are aware of its limitations as well as of the challenges which remain, such as:

  • To ensure that certain groups within the Romani community, who have not benefited from the Programme until now, benefit from it;
  • To intensify assistance provided to the Programme’s beneficiaries in their employment pathways, so that they achieve more stable employment and increase their participation in training schemes;
  • To promote more training actions aimed at improving the quality of jobs by improving professional qualification, paying special attention to the development of professional competences in the field of new technologies;
  • To deliver more positive messages confronting patterns of discrimination in the labour market, by promoting sensitising actions aimed at entrepreneurs, public administrations and society in general.

Results achieved

In the beginning of 2006, the initial objectives of the Programme have been exceeded. Here are some examples: From a quantitative point of view: 

  • 25,190 people have gone through individual employment pathways – training and assistance oriented towards their individual needs;
  • 16,560 employment contracts have been concluded;
  • 7,998 persons have had individual employment contracts, 5,182 out of which are Roma;3
  • More than 160,000 hours of vocational training have been provided through 190 courses where more than 1,800 Roma pupils have participated.

From a qualitative perspective: 

  • Promotion of participants’ autonomy and welfare. This process included:
  • Improving opportunities to access a job
  • Guaranteeing advance in equal opportunities
  • Increasing specific measures aimed at Roma 
  • Facilitating involvement of Roma into mainstream active labour market activities 
  • Improving the social participation of Roma 
  • Challenging discrimination on ethnic grounds
  • Promotion of more active social policies targeting Roma, and in particular opening up of new training and employment possibilities in which Roma can participate; 
  • Launching the Programme in 43 cities of 13 regions of Spain with the participation of around 100 public and private entities, many of which supported the Programme financially. The Programme, therefore, is operating at a multiregional level, taking into account the specifics and the needs of each territory, but also preserving common elements which may be transferable; 
  • Wide publicity, especially among Roma, of the Programme’s aims and actions; 
  • Design, elaboration and implementation of a guidance and labour insertion methodology and tools adapted to the target group.

Sustainability

  • Financial: More than 100 public administration departments (state, regional and local) contribute financially. These departments deal with social welfare policies, vocational training and employment. Their participation will facilitate the incorporation of such measures in the mainstream public policies.
  • Social and Economic: Partnership with public administration at regional and local levels has allowed the Fundaciόn Secretariado Gitano to take part in the development of local development plans and to initiate policies in line with the Programme’s goals. That is to say, that “Romani policies” are being mainstreamed into general public policies.

On the other hand, social cohesion is enhanced through the involvement of all relevant actors working within the same territory.

Gender equality is also fostered. Romani women are identified as a group in need of special attention within the Programme’s action plan. Around 50% of the Programme’s beneficiaries are women; 65% of the participants in vocational training courses are women, and 48% of all Romani clients who have had access to employment, are women. Specific actions aimed exclusively at Romani women are also developed. Positive action to promote access of Roma women to all Programme’s actions are essential in order to achieve equal opportunities for them in two ways: as women and as Roma.

  • Cultural: The action plans are based on substantial knowledge of the Romani community and its situation with respect to the labour market, which is a precondition for a more efficient and quality intervention. Such intervention is developed by teams of Roma and non-Roma. Many Roma act as mediators within their community.

The involvement of the Romani community itself is also promoted, strengthening its capacity for participation, and allowing for greater accessibility of the information to the community.

Lessons learned and impact of the Programme 

  • Design and testing of specific methodology on Roma labour insertion: A guidance and labour insertion methodology and tools adapted to the Roma community have been elaborated and applied based on the principle of individual intervention that takes into account cultural aspects (the relevance of the family, the concept of work and time…). Such methodology can be used by other actors dealing with Roma population. Such methodology includes the following components:
  • Gathering of personal information
  • Elaboration of diagnosis 
  • Design of individual employment pathways 
  • Development of actions 
  • Assistance to clients 
  • Support within the family and community environment 
     

Challenging discrimination on ethnic grounds:

  • Ideological elements that may hinder equality: The Programme contributes to weaken stereotypes by promoting the incorporation of Roma into the regular circuits of training and employment. 
  • Structural factors that raise barriers to equality: The Programme has fostered more flexible and adapted regulations and norms in relation to accessing training and employment resources. Through the Programme, discriminatory practices and patterns are being detected, recognised, quantified and analysed. Sensitising measures aimed at our own staff are carried out so that they become aware and involved in the detection of discrimination and in the promotion of anti-discrimination practices and approaches. 
  • Historical tensions between the Romani community and the rest of society: The Programme contributes to increase the capacity of Roma for participation and expression. Contact and communication and relationships between Roma and non- Roma are facilitated. Joint activities between Roma and non-Roma are launched.

Acknowledgements

There have been several acknowledgements of the ACCEDER Programme as an example of good practice: 
 

  • The Spanish National Action Plan in 2001 included the ACCEDER Programme as an example of best practices;
  • It was selected and identified by the European Social Fund in 2003 as an “Example of Best Practices” in the interim evaluation of the entire Multiregional Operational Programme to Fight Against Discrimination carried out by an independent enterprise. The results of that evaluation highlight key aspects contributing to the ACCEDER Programme’s being chosen as an example of best practices, namely: 
  • Degree of action effectiveness
  • Successful insertion rates 
  • Users satisfaction
  • General contribution to the European Employment Strategy and National Employment Action Plans 
  • Contribution to the horizontal priority of equal opportunities in achieving widespread participation and insertion rates for women. 
  • Selected as BEST at the Dubai International Award for Best Practices in improving the living conditions, organised by the United Nations – UN HABITAT- in 2004. 
  • The European Council of Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Ministers of 1 June 2004 held in Luxemburg identified the ACCEDER Programme as an example of Best Practices in guaranteeing access to the labour market for the society’s most vulnerable groups.

Transferability of the Program

Large numbers of Roma facing high levels of social exclusion became citizens of the EU as a result of the accession process. This situation calls for urgent measures to tackle Roma issues in the European context. The ACCEDER Programme may be a model for CEE countries since its approach is based on social integration rather than cultural identity, concentrating efforts to improve the life conditions of the Romani community by their full incorporation into vocational training and regular employment.

The Council of Europe Development Bank, which considers this Programme transferable to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, has signed an agreement with the FSG to provide technical assistance to projects aimed at improving the living conditions of the Romani community in Central and Eastern European countries.

The Programme has expanded within Spain itself. In 2000, we started 30 guidance and employment units in 30 different territories of Spain. Nowadays, following requests from other municipalities and regional administrations, we have enlarged the Programme to cover 44 units.

Due to the size of the Programme, the management and coordination system is a key element for its success. Such system may be transferred to other large-scale employment and social intervention projects.

Finally, the Programme is a model of an integrated approach to enhancing employability. Also, it operates with a multiregional strategy, taking into account peculiarities and specific needs and characteristics of each territory, starting from their common elements in this field, so that they become transferable.

Endnotes:

  1. This article is a collective work of the Employment and Operational Programme Department of the Spanish non-governmental, non-profit organisation Fundaciόn Secretariado Gitano (FSG). The FSG provides services for the development of the Romani community in Spain and on the European level as well. It has commenced its work in the 1960s and was formally established as a foundation in 2001. Its mission is the integration and advancement of the Romani community based on respect for their cultural identity. The FSG seeks to support access of Roma to rights, services and social resources on an equal footing with the rest of the citizens. To accomplish this, a wide range of actions are carried out focused on improving the living standards of Roma and encouraging recognition, support and development of their cultural identity. More information on the ACCEDER Programme is available at: http://www.fsgg.org.
  2. This information can be accessed at:  http://www.fsgg.org/acceder/observatorio.htm.
  3. Some participants in the Programme have had more than one contract during the period.

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