Are Supported Employment Servivces for Individuals with Development Disabilities a Good Investment?

A Review of the Literature

Research Team: Dr. Rachelle Hole, Professor Tim Stainton- University of British Columbia; Jamie Tomlinson- Registered Social Worker, MSW Student

This research is being supported by Community Living British Columbia

This report reviews the literature on the social and economic outcomes of supported employment for adults with intellectual disabilities. Research is reviewed from The United States, Australia, New Zealand, and The United Kingdom. The authors sought to include Canadian research when possible and relevant, although the Canadian literature on this topic was scarce. The outcomes of particular interest to the researchers included cost-efficiency to the taxpayer, economic benefits to the employee and employer, and social opportunities for the consumer when engaging in supported employment. The disadvantages of sheltered employment and day programs for adults with intellectual disabilities are also discussed. Historically, day programs were the only opportunity that adults with intellectual disabilities had for engaging in employment. However, progress in the community living movement that promotes self-determination and rights for people with disabilities has created more diverse and inclusive employment opportunities.

This review begins by offering a brief overview of the sheltered and supported employment approaches for adults with intellectual disabilities. In doing this, the writers hope to highlight the advantages of supported employment, and the limitations of sheltered employment and day programs. Next, the findings of a systematic literature review on the social and economic outcomes of supported employment are presented. The report concludes with a brief discussion on the challenges of implementing supported employment initiatives, and offers recommendations on how to promote inclusive and diverse employment options for adults with intellectual disabilities. Overall, the primary purpose of the review is to determine whether or not supported employment is a good investment for employers, tax payers, and supported employees.