Persons with disabilities experience multiple challenges in entering the labour force and obtaining meaningful employment. While this is the case across the globe, the disparities in the Norwegian labour system are perplexing given the extensive supports available and historical progression of disability-inclusion in the Nordic countries. Despite the relative strength of the Norwegian welfare system, persons with disabilities may not receive appropriate support to pursue a vocational pathway, rather being streamed onto temporary or permanent welfare payments.
The social, economic, individual, and collective benefits of meaningful employment are well documented. However, further research to enhance our knowledge of the barriers and facilitators for successful transitions and pathways for young people with reduced work capacity at risk of labour market exclusion are required. This may contribute to strengthening policy and practice responses. This study aims to unpack the interactions between Labour Welfare Administration (NAV) staff and users, recognising that front-line workers are making decisions within an environment with limited resources and sometimes conflicting objectives on the one hand, while service users with reduced work capacities often have complex life situations on the other hand.
This study will explore the experiences and contexts of service users with reduced work capacities and front-line workers in the Norwegian Welfare Administration, drawing on interviews, observations, focus groups, and dialogue conferences. Leading international disability employment researchers will be invited to further contextualise these findings through policy and practice reflections.
The labour force participation rate for persons with disabilities in Norway is well below ambitions (41-44%) and about 10% of the working-age population is on incapacity benefits. These figures generate substantial political concern and Norway has developed an extensive toolbox of labour market supports to mitigate exclusion. The results, however, have fallen well short of expectations. The NO-LINC project addresses a pivotal component of this paradox, support for young people (18-29 Years) transitioning into adulthood at risk of exclusion labour market as they receive the temporary “work assessment benefit”. NO-LINC is guided by three approaches: i) pathways of individual youths at risk of exclusion, ii) how street-level bureaucrats in the Labour and Welfare Administration (LWA) adapt to and implement the regulations and framework they are operating within, and iii) practices of inter-organisational collaboration (as many users have multiple and cumulative challenges and support needs from multiple services) – thus raising the issue of institutional logics in various parts of the service system. The novelty of NO-LINC is precisely the combined analyses of the three approaches to user pathways.
The organising principle of the study is the pathways of young people at risk of exclusion. Qualitative user-interviews are conducted in three waves, exploring their pathways and experiences. This is supplemented by data from street-level bureaucrats in the LWA (interviews, focus groups, observations) and from collaborating services (health, education, career guidance, employers etc.). These data are combined into a crosscutting analysis of individual tailoring, the practical opportunities and adaptations of street-level bureaucrats and the barriers, bridges and opportunities in professional collaboration under inter-organisational complexity. Guidance from international experts in vocational rehabilitation and disability employment further strengthens this study.
HELSEVEL-Gode og effektive helse-, omsorgs- og velferdstjenester