Online Survey on “Tasks and Fields of Action in Disability Management“

Background and objective

In the light of far-reaching demographic and sociopolitical changes, the demand for experts in vocational rehabilitation increases. Internationally scientific research has long recognised the importance of professional support for successful vocational rehabilitation of people with illnesses and disabilities. In Germany, however, there has been a lack of systematic research in this field. The present exploratory study aims to fill this gap by investigating the status quo of rehabilitation experts’ vocational fields of activity in Germany.

Method

The study was conducted anonymously as an online-survey. An international questionnaire which covers a wide range of tasks that can play a role in the day-to-day work of rehabilitation experts was used. Within the project it was translated into German and adapted to the German rehabilitation system. The participant’s were recruited via the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV) and the registered association of certified disability management professionals in Germany (VDiMa e.V.). 217 vocational rehabilitation experts completed the survey. Socio-demographic information and information concerning the participant’s working biography were evaluated descriptively while putting the main focus on the categorization of the answers to open-ended-questions. To analyze the questionnaire data, principal component analysis was undertaken.

Results

The majority of respondents indicated to be performing tasks from different fields of activity in their daily routine. The essential and main field of activity though appeared to be the individual work with the client. Managerial tasks on an organizational level turned out to be less important. Furthermore, it became clear that the terms the respondents used to name their qualification and their current job title varied in a confusing way. Thus it was hard to distinguish them respectively. This implicates that it was not always possible to infer from the job title of a person to their actual vocational tasks. Moreover, the participants expressed that they see a need for action concerning their vocational training as well as their professional tasks.

Discussion

German vocational rehabilitation experts can be characterized as “generalists” who cover different fields of activity in their daily routine. Their main activity is the individual work with the client while managerial tasks play a lesser role yet. A further differentiation of the vocational tasks indicating a higher degree of specialization as it can be found in related American or Australian studies does not emerge. The take-over of managerial tasks on an organizational level is not necessarily associated with the use of the term “management” in a person’s job title. These results can be explained partly by the relatively new sociopolitical changes in Germany. These changes include the introduction of a regulation in 2004 (§ 84 Social Code Book), which obliges employers to prevent and manage disability at the company level. Still different studies show various problems concerning the comprehensive implementation of this regulation. The participants see urgent needs for action concerning the clarification of structures and responsibilities in their companies as well as more networking and a better publicity for their profession. With regards to the training, respondents desired more practical exercises and case studies. Further research in this field is needed.

Project run time: 12/2008 – 05/2010

Contact: Jana Bauer, jana.bauer@uni-koeln.de