Through the financial support of the Program of Health Promotion for People with Disabilities in Thai Society, Health Systems Research Institute (HSRI), during June 2007 to March 2008, College of Population Studies, Chulalongkorn University conducted the evaluation research of the Project on Networking of Independent Occupational Development for People with Disabilities (onward refers t the Project). This Project was initiated by Office of Empowerment for Persons with Disabilities, Bureau of Welfare Promotion and Protection of Children, Youth, the Disadvantaged, Persons with Disabilities and Older Persons, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security in response to the 2006-2006 National Plan on Improvement of Quality of Life of People with Disabilities
The evaluation research project had four main objectives as followed: 1) To evaluate whether the Project fulfilled its objectives and its appropriateness to the capability of the people with disabilities; 2) To analyze strengths, weaknesses, needs, supporting mechanisms of the 3 major occupational groups classified in the Project: Occupational Training for People with Disabilities in the community, Occupational Support for Severe Disabilities and Mental Disabilities, Promotion of Coalition of Independent Occupational Groups; 3) To propose supporting mechanisms for occupational development to improve quality of life of people with disabilities; and 4) To propose systematic learning processes for occupational development and mechanisms for occupational promotion for people with disabilities.
The evaluation was conducted in 5 targeted provinces; Kanchanaburi, Nakorn Pathom, Phayao, Khon Kean and Pattalung. Data collection was carried out through 2 methods including observation of activities organized among people with disabilities (onward refers to the disabled) in various occasions, in-depth interview with 16 authorities of Local Administrative Organization (LAO) and local personnel who were in charge of the Project (onward refers to LAO personnel), and Focus Group Discussion among 89 disabled and the caretakers who were the disabled’s family members (onward refers to caretakers). In addition, relevant information was gathered from existing documents and reports on the Project reported by each participation province (including reports on learning and sharing experiences forums, and meetings on knowledge management among leaders and group members).
The evaluation results are summarized below.
Objective 1: Whether the Project fulfilled its objectives, and its appropriateness to the capability of people with disabilities. Majority of LAO personnel, the disabled and caretakers agreed that the Project which has started since 2002 was appropriate and suitable with capability of the disabled in each occupational group classified in this Project although some families, later on were not so successful and have given up running their occupations.
Before making decision in selecting any occupation supported by the Project, in most cases the meetings were held among stakeholders (officials of Provincial Office of Empowerment for Persons with Disabilities, LAO personnel, the disabled and caretakers) to discuss what was the most suitable or possible occupation for the disabled to take up. Therefore, the occupation was chosen to serve needs and suitable with ability of the three groups of the disabled supported by the Project.
However, it was clear that the success of the disabled in each group and the fulfillment of the Project’s objectives depended much upon many conditions such as the decision making process to select the type of occupation, background of the group members, basic knowledge and experiences about the chosen occupation, community’s social context and physical environment, timing for preparation before launching the Project in the are, personal conditions of the disabled and their caretakers.
Objective 2: To analyze strengths, weaknesses, needs, supporting mechanisms of the 3 major occupational groups classified in the project: Occupational Training for People with Disabilities in the community, Occupational Support for Severe Disabilities and Mental Disabilities, Promotion of Coalition of Independent Occupational Groups
1. It was clear that strengths, weaknesses and problems in running the chosen occupation of the disabled were very much depended on following factors; background of the disabled (and their care takers) in each classified occupational group, administration of allocated funding (group vs. individuals), ability of leaders, LAO personnel’s responsibility and understanding of the Project’s objectives, access to information and new knowledge to help improve products, information dissemination to the public about life of the disabled and their potentials, marketing and product outlets, attitudes of the disabled toward the chosen occupation.
2. Possibility to scale up the Project and the expansion of the independent occupational development network for the disabled were quite slim due to limitations of funding support of the existing group, the lack of strong leadership, inability of the disabled to form up groups due to distance, intention, and time allowed for joining group activities.
3. Needs for supports were varied in each classified occupational group (who had different types of disability). However, the most needed support identified by the majority was the working plan to support people with disabilities should be integrated into the LAO’s year plan. In addition, higher priority should be given to work plan to promote and develop capacity of people with disabilities to be able to live independently.
4. Important mechanisms for capacity development of people with disabilities include their families, community, Government organizations, Non-Government organizations and local administration organizations.
Objective 3: To propose supporting mechanisms for occupational development to improve quality of life of people with disabilities. In the process of independent occupational development for people with disabilities, 8 mechanisms were identified as important factors contributing to either success or failure of the Project operation. They were
1. National policy and Government commitment to support plans for capacity development of people with disabilities, and the government organizations (at the Ministry level) where policies are translated into project implementation.
2. Government officials at the provincial level who coordinate organizations at the Ministry and local levels, and who monitor the Project to be implemented according to its objectives.
3. Organization and personnel at the local level (Local Administration Organization) who work closely as a “baby sitter” and who provide advice for the disabled and their caretakers.
4. Networking of local volunteers in the community who assist the LAO personnel to gather information and collect data about the disabled, following up the Project, asses problems occurred among the disabled to report to the LAO personnel.
5. Other organization outside the community to provide supports needed by the disabled, or to help fill gaps where the LAO was unable to provide or unable to do.
6. Network of people with disabilities, group leaders, and experts who could help mobilizing the group to move forward.
7. Community and society which are equally important to the national policy to support the disabled. If the community and the society are supportive, the disabled will have greater chance to be integrated into the mainstream, and learn to be independent.
8. The attitudes of disabled and their families toward work and being independence; whether they prefer to work in order to be independent economically and socially or to live on the social welfare support
Objective 4: To propose systematic learning processes for occupational development and mechanisms for occupational promotion for people with disabilities. The project has attempted to build up the systematic learning process and mechanisms necessary for occupational development for the disabled for future use. In attempt to do so, two academic units from two universities took part. One was from Faculty of Social Work and Social Welfare, Huachiew Chalermprakiet University where the research team performed monitoring function and organized several meetings and forum (such as lessons learned, sharing and learning experiences, knowledge management, and best practice in the 5 target provinces. The meetings provided chances for the officials and the disabled to learn and share information among each other. In addition, the information obtained from these activities were organized systematically to be used for occupational development for the disabled in the future. The other academic unit was College of Population Studies, Chulalongkorn University where the research team performed evaluation function to evaluate the performance of the Project in the same 5 target provinces. The evaluation was conducted according to the 4 main objectives as already mentioned above. Based on the monitoring and evaluation processes, both academic units have proposed the systematic learning process and important issues for consideration if the project scaling up is planned in the future