This update is from Eivind Hoff in Brussels who is hosting Common Cause conversations with policy experts, campaigners and social change-makers.

How could Common Cause be used to influence politicians and the public on the need for supported employment for disabled people? This was the topic discussed at the Common Cause meeting in Brussels on 22 May, hosted by Workability Europe.

With 80 million Europeans having a disability of some sort, ensuring a decent life for disabled people should be in everyone’s interest. Despite this, it is a topic that is often forgotten. One element of a decent life is having the possibility of using your capacities to work. Many disabled people are however excluded from the open labour market. There are various forms of supported employment for disabled people, yet little is known about their role in supporting people with a disability to transition to the mainstream labour market.

Following a short introductory movie about two forms of supported employment, a discussion was held about how this topic can gain more attention and better understanding in the political debate by using principles from Common Cause.

An identified problem is the constant reference to money. Various forms of supported employment, such as work in a social enterprise or with a mainstream employer receiving a state subsidy, are often compared in terms of relative costs and seen as alternatives instead of complements to each other.

There is a move away from the sheltered workplaces, with an increased perception that the open labour market will solve the problem of unemployment for people with disability. Arguing for supported employment on the basis only of economic costs and benefits strengthens this “frame”.

The Common Cause Brussels group agreed that the personal stories that decision-makers more easily can relate to – e.g. using also relatives of disabled people to convey the “benevolence” benefits of supported employment – need to be raised. The personal benefits that work has on self-realisation need to be brought into the discussions. We talked about the potentially contradictory desires to promote both sheltered workplaces, supported employment and provide subsidies to mainstream employers, and how promoting one might restrict the opportunities for another.

The next Common Cause meeting in Brussels will be hosted by Sergi Corbolan at the Fair Trade Advocacy Office on 20 June, 12.00-13.30. The discussion will centre on how values and frames can be used for Fair Trade.  The address is Rue Fernand Bernierstraat 15. If you would like to attend, please send an email to You can find information about future event and stay in touch by joining the Common Cause Brussels group on facebook.