The Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority

Providing employment opportunities for people with mental disabilities

October 23, 2019

According to Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), over 2.8 million people in South Africa live with disabilities. They experience high levels of unemployment, and often remain in low-status jobs, earning less than the average remuneration. Multiple barriers hinder the capacity of persons with disabilities to find employment and enjoy full and effective participation in the labour market on an equal basis with others.

These factors have been widely documented and include barriers to education, a dearth of reasonable accommodation, lack of accessibility to infrastructure and to information, limitations to their legal capacity, as well as attitudinal barriers from society. In addition, disability is often equated with an inability to work. These factors have in the past had a significant negative impact on the employment of the disabled.

For over 74 years, the Pietermaritzburg Mental Health Society (PMBMH) has created awareness around the rights of the mentally disabled. PMBMH is a non-government organisation providing services to persons living with mental disabilities. This includes social work, residential care, protected employment, mental health awareness and community development among many others.

Their vision as an organisation is to empower people to ensure optimum quality of life while their mission is to work with the community to achieve the highest possible level of mental health. This is done by:

• Enabling people to participate in the identification of
individual and community mental health needs and by
responding appropriately;

• Developing effective but affordable services to meet the
needs of people having difficulty coping with everyday
situations or who are affected by a mental disability such
as psychiatric illness, intellectual disability or emotional

• Creating public awareness of mental health issues;

• Striving for the recognition, promotion and protection of
mental health rights for all people;

• Aspiring towards a caring and equal service system with a
just and fair society; and

• Accepting the uniqueness of each individual and
recognising the potential of people. Its management is
responsive and based on participation, mutual trust and

Many people living with disabilities struggle to find employment, proper education and as a result find themselves
vulnerable and excluded. This violates their dignity and limits their ability to advance their livelihoods. HWSETA has partnered with PMBMH for a mental health awareness project. Learners with mental health disabilities have been placed with employers for on-the-job training in environments that can accommodate their disabilities for a period of 12 to 18 months. All selected learners received work skills training in preparation for the placement. The project is taking place in the uMgungundlovu and Msunduzi municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal. A total of nine different companies are hosting the trainees.

A breakdown of the funding allocated to PMB Mental Health for
projects by Health and Welfare SETA is:


Financial year: 2016/2017

First intake

4 trainees

R 270 900

18 months

100% employment rate

No dropouts


Financial year: 2017/2018

Second intake

9 trainees

R 609 525

18 months

Targeted employment rate of 60%


Financial year: 2018/2019

Third intake

12 trainees

R 692 700

12 months

 Start on  1 July 2019

An employment officer and social worker have been assigned to each learner, who is responsible for monitoring the learner’s progress in the workplace.

PMB Mental Health works towards defying the obstacles faced by persons with disabilities by giving them opportunities that will allow them to reach their full potential.

As the Health and Welfare SETA, we understand and support the inclusion of people living with disabilities. Too often people with mental disabilities are denied appropriate education and work opportunities and are socially sidelined, abused and exploited.
The organisation strives to help them to overcome the obstacles that deny them the opportunity to reach their full potential as well as to dispel the myths and stigma attached to these disabilities.

On 26 June 2019, the first induction workshop was held for the 12 trainees. The induction workshop focused on:
• Introducing the project to the host employers, trainees
and parents and explaining in great detail by means of
presentations what is expected of them
• Experiences of previous and current trainees with their
host employers, teaching trainees how to handle their
• Health and safety aspects to be adhered to; and
• Understanding the contracts put in place to guide them
and ensure protocol is observed.

Attendees included trainees, their parents, host employers, social workers and the employment officer. The outcome of the induction workshop was a sound understanding of what to expect for the next 12 months as well as great anticipation and excitement.

Last modified: October 23, 2019

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