Vocational training and recognition of competencies: a key to promoting decent work in the care sector and ensuring support for persons with disabilities who require it.
In the Dominican Republic, as well as elsewhere in the Latin American and Caribbean region, thousands of women are engaged in care work, with little recognition and reward. This is the case, for example, of paid domestic workers who also perform direct care work for people, including people with disabilities, with little recognition of their rights in terms of wages, working hours or social protection. On the other hand, there are also thousands of women who cannot work for pay because they must do care work in their homes without receiving financial remuneration.
The "DR Care Communities" project, funded by the Joint SDG Fund, is an initiative that seeks to contribute to changing this reality. Implemented by the United Nations System together with the Dominican government, this project has designed the training program "Personal assistance to people with disabilities with demand for support", which is the first and only program of its kind in the country. It is a particularly relevant program, since it focuses on the autonomy of people with disabilities, ensuring compliance with international standards on the subject and consequently privileging their human rights and those of the assistants or workers in the care sector.
In this project – in which the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) also participate –, the International Labour Organization (ILO) supports the National Institute of Technical Vocational Training (INFOTEP) in the design and revision of curricular programs in the field of care.
Independent Living Care and Support Services
The curriculum "Personal assistance to persons with disabilities in demand for support" incorporates human rights standards in care, support, and disability. In this sense, it focuses on the recognition that disability is part of human diversity and claims their status as people with equal rights. It understands disability as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as "... an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others". That is, it is recognized that the environment itself does not generate the necessary and adequate conditions to guarantee the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
This curricular program is committed to the training of people who, with their work, can promote a fuller participation of persons with disabilities. Consequently, a person-centered approach to care is proposed, from which care is adapted and guided by the ideas, decisions, preferences, and personal choices of those who receive services, respecting their autonomy and independence. It is about recognizing the uniqueness and particularity of each person. The attendant becomes "the hands and feet" of the person with a disability to whom the service is provided, but not "his head." Therefore, it is the service that adapts to the person and not the other way around.
During the process of developing the Program in the Dominican Republic, in 2022 a series of consultations were organized to facilitate the construction of ideas and alignment of criteria, prioritizing the pilot communities benefited by the Joint Project, which are Santo Domingo Este and Azua. During this process, meetings were also held with specialists in the field of assistance to persons with disabilities and it was accompanied by entities related to the National Care Policy, which is led by the Ministry of Economy, Planning and Development (MEPyD). The idea was to ensure that these diverse points of view and contexts were considered, to create a relevant and realistic training tool.
“Focus group with a group of people with disabilities, as part of the preparation of the training program "Personal assistance to persons with disabilities in demand for support”.
This curricular proposal is based on the independent living model, which is committed to persons with disabilities assuming control and making decisions about their lives. It emphasizes that many of the limitations faced by persons with disabilities have to do with the environment and not with the person.
In summary, the training proposal that INFOTEP will soon launch seeks to train assistants who guarantee persons with disabilities the right to live independently and to have the necessary human support to carry out daily activities, assisting, for example, in personal hygiene, clothing, food preparation, feeding or accompanying different types of activities, such as medical appointments, study or work.
Professionalization of care workers
In the Dominican Republic, the care service needs greater professionalization. Training paths in the field of care often exclude groups of women who are already doing the work for which they are intended to train and who already have extensive experience in this field. Entry requirements can be an exclusion factor, for example, if the level of studies requested or the complexity of the registration process are high. In this type of context, these caregivers are excluded from the possibility of professionalizing and, consequently, of accessing jobs with better working conditions and better wages.
The curricular program "Personal assistance to persons with disabilities with demand for support" has prioritized promoting the participation and integral training of women who already carry out this care work, with accessible entry requirements. In addition, it is complemented by the option of applying validation tests of work skills acquired from experience in care and support. The aim is to promote decent work for particularly disadvantaged groups of women workers, while at the same time helping to extend the exercise of their rights to persons with disabilities.
The Joint SDG Fund's joint programmes are under the prestige leadership of the Resident Coordinator Office and implementing United Nations Agencies. With sincere appreciation for the contributions from the European Union and Governments of Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and our private sector funding partners, for a transformative movement towards achieving the SDGs by 2030.