Cape Mental Health help the disabled

Trainees busy with work skills development in level three.

With March being Human Rights Awareness Month as well as Intellectual Disability Awareness Month, Cape Mental Health is raising more awareness on adults with intellectual disabilities and how they fit into society.

Four out of every 100 South Africans are affected by some level of intellectual disability – ranging from mild (slow learner) to profound (inability to walk, talk, feed themselves or use the toilet). Many require lifelong care or support.

Cape Mental Health offers a range of services for people with intellectual disability and their families, ranging from counselling and support, and education and care centres for children and adults, to training and employment opportunities for those who are able to work.

Cape Mental Health has 22 projects and Training Workshops Unlimited is one of the 22 projects that offers a career path and skills development for adults with intellectual disability.

The workshops which are attended by 600 people, take place in Athlone, Mitchell’s Plain, Khayelitsha, and Retreat.

One of the objectives of Training Workshops Unlimited is advocating for more people with disabilities to be employed to create a fair and equitable work space where everyone’s right to employment is respected and protected.

The Training Workshops are called “unlimited” because trainees progress along a structured career path – from basic care and stimulation through to jobs in their own manufacturing workshops and, ultimately, the open labour market – according to their ability.

It is divided into six stages. In stage one – the high care programme – disabled people who can’t feed themselves, hold a cup, or make a sandwich and who are often wheelchair-bound, are fed at the workshop and taught how to improve their fine motor skills, according to Cape Mental Health’s general manager of Training Workshops Unlimited in Athlone, Thomas Bezuidenhout.

This gives caregivers or parents a bit of break to do every day life chores or just catch a breather.

“Taking care of a disabled person is a 24/7 task and it is not easy. So while they are here their caregivers can go shopping or do whatever they need to do,” he said.

In level 2 – the life skills programme for people with moderate disabilities – they focus on personal hygiene, sexual education, HIV/Aids, how to make a cup of tea or a sandwich, and other basic life skills.

Generally the IQ level of people with disabilities is very low as explained by Mr Bezuindehout, with them often not knowing what day or date it was. He explained that there is a reward system in place for good attendance and participation.

In level three – the work skills programme – the recipients are prepared to join the workforce. Here they improve their reading and writing skills and learn how to work with numbers. They complete tasks given to the organisation by various companies and also receive life skills training.

“Here we identify those who are ready to go into learnerships as well. Through the tasks given they attain work skills, learn how to build relationships and how to work with money,” said Mr Bezuidenhout.

In level four – the bridging and support programme – they are supported by job coaches whose responsibility it is to identify those who are ready to join the workforce but need bridging. They are taught how to compile a CV, apply for jobs, and interview guidelines and in level five – the open labour market support programme – they are placed into a job. People with disabilities often struggle to travel to work or understand how to complete the task given to them, this is where the job coach steps in – to make sure that the person understands their job requirements.

In the last stage, level six – the supported self employment programme – job coaches support and train entrepreneurs and small businesses owners, and all of this forms the career path. Close to 100 people have been placed so far and about six clients started their own businesses.

Mr Bezuidenhout said the workshop’s aim was to develop the clients so that they may join the workforce and be able to operate in the real world but sometimes he said this is just not possible according to the degree of the persons intellectual disability.

He said people often believed that disabled people were unable to function well and could not do a day’s work. To raise even more awareness about this, the organisation will be hosting its annual trolley dash on Friday March 29, at the Athlone branch on the corner of Klipfontein and Johnston roads. Clients of all branches will participate in fun and games and win prizes and their parents will serve as the judges.

For more information, contact Cape Mental Health’s head office in Observatory at 021 447 9040, email or call the Training Workshops Unlimited Athlone branch at 021 638 3143.