Workshop for disabled people

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A man with Down syndrome works in a "workshop for the disabled" in Munich, 1994

A workshop for disabled people (official abbreviation WfbM , formerly also "protective workshop", today also "support workshop") is a facility for the "integration" or integration of people with disabilities into working life in Germany ("vocational rehabilitation ", see " Integration aid " ). The corresponding facilities are organized in Germany in the Federal Working Group on Workshops for Disabled People (BAG: WfbM); at the European level, there is the European Association of service providers for persons with disabilities ( European Association of Service Providers for People with Disabilities ).


In 2012, the number of WfbMs across Germany was 682 with 2750 locations, they employ 310,000 people, 260,000 in the work area, 30,000 in the vocational training area, 17,000 in the funding area. In addition, there are around 5,000 “workshop-authorized people” who are not employed in WfbM. In addition, there are people who visit a day care center (they are considered "not suitable for workshops").

In 2017, 275,110 people with disabilities were employed in a workshop for people with disabilities. Depending on the federal state, that is 0.3 to 0.8 percent of all people between the ages of 18 and 65. The costs were 16,592 euros per person and year, depending on the federal state between 12,000 and 20,000 euros per person and year. This includes the employment subsidy of 52 euros per person per month, as well as travel costs averaging 150 euros per person per month. Around 50% live in their own family group, 18% in their own apartment with outpatient care, 32% in inpatient care.

History and usage

"Protective workshop" or "Protected workshop"

Under the motto: “Work instead of alms”, Friedrich von Bodelschwingh the Elder had colonist farms built in the Senne , in Freistatt and in Hope Valley-Lobetal from 1898 . The target group were initially "non-residents" . Before his death (1910), von Bodelschwingh initiated the establishment of workplaces especially for people with disabilities. The workshops for disabled people at Von Bodelschwinghschen Anstalten Bethel in Bielefeld - Gadderbaum are considered to be the oldest workshops for people with disabilities in Germany.

Bodelschwingh's concept could not be continued in Germany during the National Socialist era . Instead, his target group was classified as “ life unworthy of living ” and was to be systematically murdered as part of the T4 campaign .

Forerunners of facilities that are now called workshops for disabled people were called protective workshops or sheltered workshops after the Second World War . As late as 1962, the prevailing view among leading representatives of the Bundesvereinigung Lebenshilfe was that people with disabilities “should be protected against the harsh wind of the economy”.

"Workshop for the disabled"

The term workshop for the disabled (WfB) was introduced into the Federal Social Welfare Act (BSHG) in 1961, which was the first to establish a binding set of rules for the institutions so-called.

In 1974 the German Bundestag passed a workshop concept that is essentially still valid today for the population group in the workshops, who “for the most part and for their entire life are not offered any employment”.

"Workshop for disabled people"

The designation workshop for disabled people (WfbM) has been legally binding since July 1, 2001 in Section 136 of the Ninth Book of the Social Code (SGB IX) , and since 2018 in Section 219 SGB ​​IX.

In the Federal Participation Act passed in 2016 - apart from a few nuances - an almost unchanged continuation of the WfbM in its current form is legally anchored.

"Landesarbeitsgemeinschaft Arbeit | Education | Participation in Lower Saxony "

In February 2020 the state working group for workshops for disabled people (WfbM) in Lower Saxony changed its name to state working group for work | Education | Participation in Lower Saxony . The new name is intended to express that the LAG has long since ceased to see itself only as a representation of the interests of workshops for disabled people (WfbM), but is actively involved in the broader sense of participation in the working life of people with disabilities. Since 2020, the LAG has consistently called the clientele on whose behalf it appears people with disabilities .

Workshops during the COVID-19 pandemic

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany , most WfbM employees were banned from entering “their” WfbM in March 2020 by decrees from the responsible countries. Employees were only allowed to work in emergency groups, and work orders that had not been completed were carried out by WfbM employees and auxiliary workers without a certificate of severe disability. The blanket entry ban was lifted in May 2020. In its place were precautions that were intended to ensure compliance with the “AHA rule” (keep your distance, pay attention to hygiene, wear an everyday mask).

In June 2020, the “Ärzteblatt” criticized the widespread attitude that the people in care in facilities for disabled people (including workshops for disabled people) must be protected as rigorously as residents of old people's and nursing homes. Although the average person with an “intellectual disability” has a life expectancy that is twelve years shorter, their risk of dying from COVID-19 is significantly lower than that of a 75-year-old or older. "In particular, the existential needs for contact and time together with close people of trust as well as the right to participate in all areas of life should be taken into account."

Classification of the development by Mario Schreiner

Mario Schreiner answers the title question of his contribution “[WfbM:] Socio-historical milestone or social isolation?” With the words: “Workshops for disabled people are an integral part of the services for participation in working life in Germany. They are an achievement in terms of social law, as they ensure that people with disabilities “who are not, not yet or not yet again” (Section 41 SGB IX and Section 58 SGB IX new version) can work under the conditions of the general labor market, get the opportunity to work. Despite these positive aspects of the WfbM, it remains unmistakable that there is a need for reform in the traditional offer. This results from the formulated human rights requirements of the UN-CRPD, a changing awareness in dealing with people with disabilities - from care to equality and full participation - and not least due to the formulated needs and wishes of the workshop employees with regard to social participation and social recognition . Against this background, a critical observation and support of the WfbM and its possible reforms through the innovations of the BTHG in the coming years is indicated. "

Critique of the use of the term

Today, workshops for disabled people are only colloquially referred to as protective workshops . According to language critics, the term has the strong connotation that people with disabilities are not primarily subjects who want to satisfy their needs as independently as possible in a society shaped by the models of inclusion and the responsible citizen , but objects that seek paternalistic care need.

The now colloquial terms workshop for the handicapped and the handicapped workshop are considered “ politically incorrect ”, since the substantive use of the participle “handicapped” makes the handicap appear as the (only) characteristic of those affected.

The term workshop for disabled people is also criticized, although it is a technical term in legal language. The reference word "human" is not emphasized enough by the back office. “People with disabilities” is a more acceptable formulation. It is even better if the word “handicapped” is completely avoided. Instead, the words "people with significant disabilities", "people with disabilities" or " people with learning difficulties " should be used.

Admission requirements for employment

In a workshop for disabled people , for the purpose of vocational rehabilitation or integration assistance, people should be accepted as employees who, due to their physical, mental or psychological impairments or peculiarities, cannot , not yet or not yet return to work on the general labor market; they have a right to a workshop space.

Delimitation of those able to work

The prerequisite for admission is a certificate stating that those who are to be employed in a WfbM have a disability or incapacity so that they can participate in the general labor market for less than three hours a day. The hope that this condition (contrary to what the term “disability” suggests) is based on a temporary impairment is expressed in the fact that all employees in a WfbM are considered to be “ rehabilitants ”. Therefore, recognition as a severely disabled person and the existence of a severely disabled person's pass are not acceptance criteria for the workshops.

There are different interpretations of the phenomenon that some workshops are increasingly accepting people with learning disabilities or physical disabilities without the characteristic of an intellectual disability . The supra-local social welfare agencies assume that around five percent of all workshop employees are currently in the wrong place and could actually be employed on the primary labor market. The Disabled Association of the Federal Association of Protestant Disability Aid (BeB) criticizes this assessment as a “politically motivated figure”.

An "ISB study" commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS), however, comes to the conclusion that a "connection between learning disabilities and additional behavioral problems (...) in a special way" applies particularly to the group of admitted people with learning disabilities. The resulting problems and the lack of appropriate alternative measures then often lead to the assumption of costs by the social welfare agency in the work area, which is not an “automatic mechanism between workshop, employment agency and school with a focus on learning”.

Differentiation from severely disabled and “multiple disabilities”

Paragraph 2 of Section 219 of Book IX of the Social Code stipulates that people with a disability may only be admitted to a WfbM if they “at the latest after taking part in measures in the vocational training area will provide at least a minimum amount of economically usable work.” This enables those who are which does not meet this criterion. For this group of people, some “ day care centers” and some separate groups have been set up, which (in contrast to the “work area” as “support and care area”) are integrated in workshops for disabled people.

Legal status of workshop employees and its consequences

Employees in a WfbM are not considered as employees under social law, in contrast to the educational supervisors, group leaders , etc. employed by the institution . You have a legal status similar to that of an employee.

The Baden-Württemberg State Labor Court found in a judgment of January 26, 2009:

"From Section 138 (1) of the Book of the Social Code (SGB IX), the legislature generally assumes that disabled people work in the work area of ​​recognized workshops in a legal relationship similar to that of an employee. The fact that the employee performs at least a minimum of economically usable work is not a sign of an employment relationship, but a prerequisite for admission according to Section 219 of Book IX, Paragraph 2, Clause 1 for a workshop for disabled people. An employment relationship only exists if the main purpose of the employment is to provide economically usable services and not the purpose of Section 219, Paragraph 1, No. 1 of Book IX of the Social Code, namely enabling appropriate employment, is the focus of the stay in the WfbM. "

Better off compared to employees

From 1997 to 2007 the number of WfbM jobs increased by over 50% to approx. 300,000, while the placement rate on the “general labor market” was less than 1%. If there were no workshops for disabled people , the majority of the remaining 99% of the workforce would not have had the opportunity to do regular work. Since in the sense of official statistics , those who are not able to work are by definition not part of the potential labor force , they cannot become unemployed even though they are not in employment. However, since the majority of people with physical disabilities are considered to be able to work, this group of people cannot find admission to a WfbM and is affected by a high unemployment rate. The protective effect of the formerly so-called “protective workshops” is visible in the fact that they guarantee employment and offer extensive protection against dismissal.

An advantage compared to non-disabled workers in the low-wage sector results from the fact that seniors who have been employed in a WfbM for decades receive a pension in accordance with Section 43 (6) SGB VI despite their very low previous income . This pension is calculated on the basis of the average monthly employee income in Germany.

Worse position compared to employees

For employees in a WfbM, due to their status as "employee-like persons", e.g. B. Regulations on a statutory minimum wage are not. However, there is a basic amount that all employees must receive at least, even if no incremental amount is paid out. In 2015 it was 75 euros per month (without additional employment subsidy). While z. For example, in France, employees receive a living wage that is equivalent to their living wage, in Germany their facility-dependent wages may be topped up by an additional basic security so that their income is sufficient to secure their livelihood . As long as the sum of wages and basic security does not exceed the subsistence level, higher work performance does not lead to higher income. As a rule, this threshold can only be exceeded if employees in a WfbM are entitled to a pension “due to reduced earning capacity ”, which is the case at the earliest twenty years after joining the WfbM .

Tasks of a WfbM

The tasks of the workshop for disabled people are described in Section 219 of SGB IX. At the same time, the inclusion requirement within the meaning of Art. 27 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities must be taken into account, so that the WfbM is currently talking about a “triple mandate”.

The objectives on which the mandates are based are partly opposed to one another. Thus, economy sets z. B. actually presupposes that the underperformers do not impair the operating result too much through their low labor productivity , while their rehabilitation and inclusion interests prohibit rigorous exclusion measures, as they are considered "normal" in the primary labor market. The "solution" to the conflict is the waiver of wage levels that have (become) customary on the primary labor market, especially after the introduction of the statutory minimum wage.

Equal right to work as participation

Art. 27 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires “the same right of people with disabilities to work.” The German Caritas Association regards this provision as “remarkable because all people without disabilities in Germany are entitled to transfer payments and comprehensive support if they are on the Labor market cannot find a job - but no guarantee of participation in working life. "

According to the UN convention, a WfbM must offer “adequate vocational training” if people with a disability cannot find another way to get one. The productivity or earning capacity of the people employed there should be maintained, developed, increased or regained, while at the same time their personal development should be made possible (§ 219 SGB IX). In addition, the workshop must also offer employment at a wage based on the work results that is commensurate with the performance. All the principles mentioned so far result from the rehabilitation mandate of the WfbM.

Placement on the general labor market

The workshop is intended to promote the transition of suitable people to the general labor market through suitable measures. It has the widest possible range of vocational training and jobs as well as qualified staff and an accompanying service.

So-called outsourced jobs on the general labor market should also be offered for the purpose of transition and as permanently outsourced places (Section 219 of Book IX of the Social Code). The named requirements result from the inclusion mandate of the WfbM.

Economic principles

In addition, the workshop should be run according to economic principles (= profitability mandate of the WfbM) and pay remuneration to the employees in the work area. This means that the workshop must also satisfy commercial and private customers who request goods and services from it in order to guarantee a corresponding turnover. The remuneration to be paid is formed from the work result after deducting a wage reserve and an investment reserve.

Legal basis

In Article 3 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany Paragraph 3 Clause 2 is anchored in law: "Nobody may be disadvantaged because of their disability."

There are also three important legal bases for workshops: the Ninth Book of the Social Code (SGB IX), the Workshop Ordinance (WVO) and the Workshop Participation Ordinance (WMVO).

In Book IX sets out which government agencies for the workshops and their employees are responsible, which tasks and demands on workshops and what claims can raise the employees. The regulation of the cost bearers and cash benefits is also specified here ( §§ 4 ff. SGB ​​IX).

The Workshop Participation Ordinance stipulates that workshop employees are involved in what is going on in the workshop through their own workshop councils and what influence they can exercise.

According to the Workshop Ordinance, a WfbM should give at least 120 disabled employees the opportunity to offer work for participation in working life ( Section 7 WVO) and observe the disability-related possibilities of the respective workshop employee ( Sections 1 and 5 WVO). If the acceptance criteria are met, the workshop must accept all affected people in its catchment area so that local funding can take place. This affects people with mental, psychological and physical impairments. Exceptions are people whose performance is extremely low, who require above-average care or who pose a great risk to others or themselves.

Many workshops separate the areas according to the psychological, physical or mental characteristics of the people in order to ensure optimal support.

The costs for a workshop place are borne by the local social welfare institutions , the employers' liability insurance association, the German pension insurance or the Federal Employment Agency . These agencies support the measure in the first 27 months (maximum).

Organization and structure

Nationwide there are currently around 700 recognized workshops with around 280,000 spaces. The course of action is regulated in three different stages:

Entry procedure (EV)

The entry procedure enables the participant to gain an initial insight into the workshop. It should be determined whether the workshop is the appropriate facility "for the participation of people with disabilities in working life and which areas of the workshop and which services are considered for participation in working life for people with disabilities" ( Section 57 Paragraph 1 No. . 1 SGB IX). An integration plan is drawn up in which the skills of the disabled person are recorded and goals for the subsequent support and education process are jointly set. The EV usually lasts three months. The EV is financed by the responsible rehabilitation agency . As a rule, this is the Federal Employment Agency, the statutory pension insurance provider ( Deutsche Rentenversicherung ) or a professional association .

Vocational Training Area (BBB)

After the entry procedure (EV) the vocational training area (BBB) ​​follows.

The BBB lasts a maximum of two years. After the first year of the BBB (basic course), a report is made, which is discussed in the technical committee, the advisory body of the workshop and representatives from the employment agency and social welfare. If the participant's performance can be further promoted, the responsible rehabilitation provider should approve the second year in the BBB (advanced course).

The vocational training area is divided into a basic and an advanced course, each lasting 12 months, in which various skills (in the advanced course with a higher level of difficulty) are taught. The self-esteem of the workshop employee should also be raised and social and work behavior should be promoted. A self-assessment of individual abilities that is as realistic as possible should also be aimed for. Offers to develop practical life skills (learning social norms and values ​​(rules, punctuality, etc.), personal hygiene, health care, clothing, food and drink, traffic education, dealing with money) are included in the funding. For the BBB, a group key of 1: 6 is required by law ( Section 9 (3) WVO).

In 2002, the Employment Agency and the BAG: WfbM created a framework program for the area of ​​vocational training . Although this framework program is not a legally stipulated requirement, it can be assumed that the cost bearers will be closely bound by the document in their requirements for the workshop. (see below: web links)

Since January 1, 2013, the Federal Employment Agency has been demanding a carrier license analogous to the Accreditation and Licensing Ordinance Employment Promotion for the Vocational Training Area.

Work area (AB)

After the BBB, the participants have the opportunity to switch to the work area of ​​the workshop. The employment in the work area is unlimited. The workshop should have as wide a range of workplaces as possible, largely in line with the general labor market, in order to take into account as much as possible the type and severity of the handicap, the different levels of productivity and the suitability and inclination of the person concerned. Here, too, there is further funding.

Integration order and outsourced jobs

Today the WfbM is the suitable place to participate in working life and in the community for all those people who are not wanted by the economy. The legislature expresses this in Section 219 (1) SGB IX:

" The workshop for disabled people (...) has those disabled people who, due to the nature or severity of the disability, cannot, not yet or not yet be employed again in the general labor market,

1. to offer appropriate vocational training and employment at a wage that is commensurate with the work results and

2. to enable them to maintain, develop, increase or regain their productivity or employability and thereby develop their personality further.

(...) "

Not only because of the situation on the labor market, but also because of the aforementioned basic conditions for a workshop position, far less than 1% of workshop employees make the transition to the general labor market every year. The budget for work is currently accepted very differently: In Lower Saxony: 0.03% placements per year, in Rhineland-Palatinate: 0.25% per year, in Hamburg: 1.2% per year, each based on the workshop spaces.

Specialized integration services (IFD according to § 192 SGB ​​IX) and so-called “external workplaces” can improve the transition to the labor market. “Outside workplace” means: A person with a disability works in a private company, but remains a workshop employee in terms of status. The Workshop Ordinance regulates these "outdoor workplaces" in Section 5 (4) WVO:

“(4) The transition of disabled people to the general labor market is to be promoted through suitable measures, in particular through the establishment of a transition group with special support offers, the development of individual support plans and the possibility of training measures, company internships and temporary employment in outsourced jobs. In doing so, the workshop must ensure the necessary work-related support in the transition phase and ensure that the responsible rehabilitation provider provides its services and, after the disabled person has left the workshop, the integration office , if necessary with the participation of an integration specialist , provides the accompanying help in working and professional life ... "


The workshop employees have legally prescribed participation rights. In all workshops, workshop councilors are elected who represent the interests of the employees in the work area and discuss them with management. The concerns of the participants in the field of vocational training and in the entry procedure are also taken into account. The “Workshop Participation Ordinance” regulates the rights and obligations of the workshop council, but also the workshop management. In agreement with the owner of the workshop, a parent and supervisor council can be set up to advise the workshop and the workshop council on their work and support them with suggestions and statements. The elected workshop councils and parent and guardian councils can influence all relevant questions.

Workshop councils have organized themselves beyond their own workshop at the state and federal level, the first in May 2000 being the state working group of workshop councils in North Rhine-Westphalia. As a result of several years of adult education work with workshop councilors under the direction of Dieter Niermann at the Ev. Folk high school Lindenhof, Bethel . In 2004, a federal working group of workshop councils was formed, which dissolved itself in 2007. On February 7, 2008, the Federal Association of State Working Groups of Workshop Councils (BVWR) was founded.

Business principles

The main task of the workshops is the rehabilitation and integration task, the "participation in working life" for people with disabilities. With this main contract, the workshops achieve 70 to 90% of their revenues.

Nevertheless, the workshops are organized in their production areas according to business principles and want to strive for economic work results in order to be able to pay wages to the employees in the work area. For the self-esteem of the employees it is crucial that they take on an economically meaningful and efficient job. Workshops are often based on three pillars: contract work, in-house production and services. This includes, for example, assembly, packaging and shipping orders for companies from industry, trade and commerce. Many workshops have a considerable amount of in-house production (e.g. wooden toys, handcrafted objects, textiles or garden furniture). Offers from the field of IT services have a promising future. Garden and landscape maintenance, agriculture, recycling of old electronic (electronic) devices, kitchen and party services, laundry, printing and mailing of advertising material, the operation of a zoo or an ice rink are also part of the offer. Shredding files, also as a full service and according to DIN-standardized security level, is a strength of many workshops. In line with this, some facilities also offer professional archiving of documents that are scanned, transferred to data storage media or also kept online on a server .

In order to be able to adequately serve large and supra-regional customers, numerous workshops have come together in the form of non-profit cooperatives or non-profit companies (e.g. GDW-Nord , GDW Hessen-Thuringia , GDW-NRW, GAV Berlin , GfA Saxony, GDW- NBSA). These companies support the workshops in acquisition and coordinate major projects.

Many workshops today use quality management and are certified in order processing and in the provision of services for people with disabilities according to a quality management standard such as ISO 9001: 2000 .

Rehabilitation-specific quality management system

WfbM Quality Plus is a rehabilitation-specific quality management system for workshops for disabled people. SGB ​​IX demands a quality management system for workshops for disabled people.

Countervailing charge

Employers who place orders with WfbM can, in accordance with Section 223 of Book IX of the Social Code, credit up to ... 50 percent of the invoice amount for such orders (total invoice amount minus material costs) for the work performed by the workshop against the equalization charge ...

Public-sector contracts that can be carried out by workshops are to be given preference to them ( Section 224 of Book IX of the Social Code).

Pay and social transfers

In the area of vocational training , rehabilitation candidates (“participants”) do not receive any remuneration from the WfbM, but either a training allowance or a transition allowance from the responsible rehabilitation provider. The training allowance is set by law. Currently, 67 euros are paid for the first 12 months (from incorporation into the workshop). Then the training allowance increases to 80 euros per month. Section 125 SGB ​​III is decisive here . Since August 1, 2019, the training fee has been increased to 117 euros for the entry procedure, the 1st and 2nd year.

In the work area , on the other hand, remuneration from the workshop is mandatory, whereby at least 70% of the work result must be paid out as a rule ( Section 12 (5) sentence 1 WVO). If the employed person is not an employee, but is part of the workshop in accordance with According to Section 221 (1) SGB IX in a legal relationship similar to an employee, she is not entitled to the statutory minimum wage .

The individual remuneration is based on a basic amount of 80 euros / month ( Section 125 SGB ​​III). This amount is required by law ( Section 221 (2) SGB IX). In addition, there is a work subsidy of 52 euros per month ( Section 59 SGB ​​IX). Building on the basic amount, an increase amount , which should be performance-related, is paid. When measuring the increase, depending on the concept of the workshop, not only quantitative and qualitative aspects of work performance, but also the complexity of the workplace, social behavior, dirt and noise allowances, age and workshop membership are taken into account. The average wage in German workshops for disabled people was around 159 euros per month in 2008 (with a minimum employment time of 35 hours per week). Those disabled people who are dependent on further help (e.g. accommodation in a dormitory) still have to provide personal contributions from this income. These regulations refer to § 82 SGB ​​XII and stipulate that the income tax allowance for aid recipients is one eighth (2018: 52 euros) of standard requirement level 1 (2018: 416 euros). 50% of the remuneration in excess of this income tax allowance is to be used for the dormitory costs. An average earner in the WfbM has a residual income of 105.50 euros from the 159 euros / month after the deduction for dormitory accommodation

The usual services also include ensuring transport to the workshop and lunch.

The workshop employees are insured against accident, health, care and pension like other employees, regardless of the often low wages. Compared to them, they are privileged in that they are entitled to a “ disability pension ” after 20 years of workshop activity (in the case of a congenital intellectual disability, i.e. already at the age of around 40) . According to Section 162 SGB ​​VI, this amount is 80 percent of the pension level of an average German employee. In contrast to employees who have become incapacitated, the financial situation of workshop employees improves after the twenty-year period has expired when they receive the disability pension.

Workshop employees receive the full disability pension after 20 years. The actual income in the workshop is irrelevant. The contributions are increased in the pension insurance ("pension privilege"). The reference figure is around 80 percent of the average earnings of all insured persons. The average disability pension after 20 years of contributions averages almost 800 euros per month (infas research report 516, page 49, from September 2018).

Before the twenty-year period has expired, those members of a WfbM who do not have additional income or assets are usually entitled to benefits as part of the basic security in the event of reduced earning capacity. These are paid to those who have reached the age of 18 and who are permanently and fully incapacitated in terms of statutory pension insurance ( Section 43 (2) SGB VI). According to Section 42 SGB ​​VI, the sum of individual remuneration and basic security corresponds to the amount that a needy pensioner would also receive under the same circumstances.

Working groups

The group key in the work area is (according to § 9 Paragraph 3 WVO) 1:12 (one specialist for twelve disabled employees). This is considered a statistical and legal value. Each group is led by a (often) “group leader” (the term has never existed in law) called “specialist for employment and professional development” (FAB). The specialists have additional special educational training and are responsible for the quality of the resulting end products and the development of the personalities of the workshop employees. The skilled workers should, if possible, come from the craft sector (master craftsman qualification) and also be able to cope with the educational task. In many workshops, community service workers were used in the working groups to provide support . Sometimes someone is still used to support who wants to do a voluntary social year .

Accompanying or social services

The specialists are supported by social, educational and psychological support services, which work with the payers to secure the financing of the measure. The accompanying services are the point of contact for participants and employees, group leaders, parents and relatives. You work closely with the workshop managers and support the workshop council. They support the rehabilitation patients, organize suitable accompanying offers and provide practical help in conflict situations. Mainly social pedagogues or social workers work in the accompanying service . In institutions for people with mental health problems, psychologists can also be employed to provide support. In the various workshops, accompanying measures are often offered by additional staff in the accompanying service, such as occupational therapy , sport, rehabilitation sports or adult education .

Technical Committee

In every WfbM a technical committee is to be formed according to § 2 WVO . This includes representatives of the workshop, representatives of the Federal Employment Agency and representatives of the supra-local or - depending on the federal state - local social welfare organizations .

The technical committee should also represent representatives of other rehabilitation providers such as B. the German pension insurance (formerly LVA and BfA) or the employers' liability insurance association , if their responsibility for the provision of services for participation in working life and supplementary benefits comes into consideration. He can also consult other people or hear experts.

The technical committee discusses the requirements and funding in the workshop in individual cases. For each workshop employee, the technical committee gives a vote on whether they should be accepted, whether and how they should be promoted in the vocational training area, whether they will be accepted into the work area and in which area. Further qualification measures are also the subject of advice here, as are measures for structuring the transition to the general labor market. The professional vote of the technical committee should form the basis of its cost decision for the responsible rehabilitation agency.


In general, social criticism is now directed against the “specialization” of “disabled people”, especially in connection with the formulation, ratification, implementation and practical application of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD) and the discussion in this too Connection over z. B. Inclusive education . The rector of the Austrian special school in Reutte came to the conclusion that his school “mainly produces supplies for workshops for the disabled”.

Lack of commitment against exclusion tendencies

Critics speak of a "handicapped industry": The expenditure for "integration aid" z. B. from 1998 to 2009 by around 60% to over 13 billion euros, by 2013 the number of "jobs" offered in "social enterprises" by over 63% to 305,000, although in Germany z. For example, fewer and fewer “people with intellectual disabilities ” would be born and people with physical disabilities would, in principle, have more opportunities for “regular” work. In fact, the number of severely disabled unemployed fell by only 6 percent between 2008 and 2018, while the number of all unemployed fell by 29 percent over the same period. This shows that the German economy is finding it difficult to hire people with disabilities who are classified as having limited working capacity, even in a good overall economic situation. It is all the more difficult to place people with full disability on the primary labor market.

Income and financial circumstances of the employees

Critics complain that the nationwide received an average of only around € 8.50 per day as “remuneration”, not as employees , but merely as “employee-like employees”. This is described as discriminatory and as an excessive solidarity contribution of the “disabled”, usually through no fault of their own, and stands in clear contradiction to the inclusive demands of the UN Disability Rights Convention (UN-CRPD) also with regard to “participation” or access by people Handicaps to the general labor market.

In its action plan published in October 2016, an “Inclusion Expert Commission” convened by the Lower Saxony state government calls on the government to work through the Federal Council to ensure that employees in a WfbM receive the statutory minimum wage .

It is also criticized that such income is offset against the basic security ; Corresponding changes in the course of a reform of the " integration aid ", the " Federal Participation Act ", would be subject to the requirement of cost neutrality.

Illegitimate grandfathering for workshops

The Federal Association of Protestant Disability Aid (BeB) states that the UN-CRPD “very clearly” formulates “that the right to work and employment for people with disabilities should be implemented in the general labor market”. You will therefore look in vain for a reference to workshops for disabled people. Because the UN Convention consistently transfers the rejection of special worlds to the area of ​​work.

The placement rate on the general labor market is contrary to the legal mandate with a value "in the per mille range". The BAG WfbM points out that only in the best case “individuals” in WfbM “achieve (re) such a high level of performance that they can meet the requirements of the general labor market.” The assumption that they are required to transition to the primary labor market Critics consider that “suitable” (formulation in Section 219 of Book IX of the Social Code) “individuals” should make up less than 1% of employees.

Critics point out that German social law and its paternalistic approach in general stemmed from Bismarck's time. It was actually designed for a temporary need for help in the case of really only temporary impairments. However, disability is neither a temporary consequence of an accident nor an “illness”. Therefore, the concept of "rehabilitation" for permanently disabled people is wrong in the beginning.

In its action plan published in October 2016, the Lower Saxony “Inclusion Commission” demands that jobs in workshops for disabled people should only be offered to “disabled people with a very high need for support”. The workshops are to be developed into “competence companies for education, training, employment and professional development”.

The planned change in the procurement and contract regulations for services for public clients in favor of the WfbM "cement" its existence and its segregating role contrary to the demands of the UN CRPD.

The German Caritas Association also sees dangers in the fact that workshops for handicapped people, in their dutiful pursuit of economic efficiency, get into unfair competition against regular contractors: “It is in the wise interest of the workshops not to operate a price policy that significantly undercuts the usual market price level . If a workshop succeeds in ousting its private commercial competitors from the market, then the following assumption is very likely: The success is not (solely) due to the entrepreneurial skills of the workshop manager, but is based on an unfairly low remuneration of the people with disabilities employed there . Or the suspicion arises that the amount that the service provider pays for the participation of the workshop employees more than compensates for the disadvantage that the workshop has due to the employment of people with severe disabilities. Should the workshops one day be subjected to a legal review according to the rules of European competition law, it should be very important not to give any room to suspicion of wage dumping or overcompensation. Clever self-restraint is necessary in order to secure the work of the workshops in the long term. "

Denied employee status

In the opinion of some critics, the denial of the employee status constitutes a violation of European law. According to Directive 2003/88 / EC on certain aspects of the organization of working time , an employee “according to objective criteria is to be regarded as the person who carries out an actual and genuine job by doing during provides services for another person according to his instructions for a certain period of time and receives remuneration in return. ”All of these criteria apply to employees in a WfbM .

Future of the institution WfbM

A central argument of defenders of the continued existence of the WfbM institution is to reject the claim that the mere existence of a special facility exclusively for “fully disabled people” constitutes a violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Disabled. Rather, workshops for disabled people enable many people to participate in working life and their integration into working life, which would not have had any right to meaningful employment before the law on severely disabled persons came into force in 1974.

The Federal Working Group WfbM denies that the work of the employees in WfbM is “gainful employment”, since no pressure to perform is exerted on the employees. The working group emphasizes that it is therefore not possible to pay the statutory minimum wage to WfbM employees. A WfbM has “less of the performance claim than the duty to protect our workshop employees in view. Workshop employees are not employees, they are rehabilitants. "Although the term" rehabilitation "arouses the hope that at the end of the rehabilitation process there is an ability to work that enables WfbM employees to have an employee status, the BAG WfbM emphasizes that employees do not have any (comparable to unemployed) “Workers in waiting”, but that the vast majority of them do not consist of disabled people whose employability could be restored through rehabilitation measures. Rather, it is about “people who require assistance, care, support and care etc. U. need during the entire working life in the workshops. ”Therefore, it must be examined whether it makes sense if as many employees as possible in a WfbM today are to be exposed to the pressure to perform in the primary labor market.

In 2011, “ Aktion Mensch ” determined that there was a contradiction between the existence of “facilities that were once specially created for the group of people with disabilities” on the one hand and the “desirable goal of equal coexistence between people with and without handicap ”on the other hand. The answer to the question of whether this contradiction can be resolved is open to “Aktion Mensch”. The rumor that she is no longer willing to financially support measures by workshops for disabled people is denied by the "Aktion Mensch".

According to the Bundesverband Evangelische Behindertenhilfe (BeB), one must take into account that workshops for disabled people are practically unknown in many other countries. “The partly justified, partly also unjustified public criticism cannot, as a consequence, mean that all workshops are to be abolished overnight. In the opinion of the BeB, the WfbM will continue to be an appropriate and necessary place for many people with disabilities in order to be meaningful and to contribute to social value creation through their own work. The performance requirements of the general labor market and its low capacity, the need for adaptable workers and the decrease in auxiliary activities make it difficult and prevent all people with disabilities from participating in general working life. "

Regarding the situation in Germany, the Austrian Franz Wolfmayr, President of the European Association of Service Providers for Persons with Disabilities (EASPD), says: “My impression is that German organizations are still subject to the fallacy that they can permanently decide for themselves where the path should go how the UN Convention is implemented. That will not be possible in the long run. But at the moment the facilities are still very strong and change is slow. Both you and us will be driven by the demands of parents and relatives as well as the wishes of people with disabilities themselves. From an Austrian point of view, however, I must also say that German standards are very high and it would not be advisable to give them up. "

In April 2016, the Federal Government stated that it "[...] currently sees no need for action in view of the UN Committee of Experts' request to eliminate false incentives that prevent people with disabilities from entering or transitioning into the general labor market". The federal government is of the opinion that “workshops for disabled people (WfbM) continue to have their place as providers of services for participation in working life”. Although the number of new entrants to WfbM is decreasing, the number of employees in workshops is increasing because relatively few employees have left their WfbM for reasons of age.


People with disabilities in a support workshop in Bavaria:

International situation

According to Austrian Franz Wolfmayr, the BeB's assertion that there are no facilities outside of Germany that are comparable to German workshops for disabled people is factually incorrect: over three million people with disabilities work in Europe in special facilities for people with disabilities, ten of them Percent in Germany. In other countries, however, it is common practice to subsidize workshop wages. At a conference at the end of 2014, Wolfmayr stated that the (too low) wages of people employed in workshops had been an issue so far. B. A topic that is far too little considered by trade unions . In 2012, he also called for WfbM employees to be given employee rights , to agree an employment contract with them and to pay them collectively . Independently of this, the EASPD assesses workshops as "ideally suited for people with a high need for support" and therefore sees no reason to abolish these facilities.

In 2010, the EU Commission announced in its working paper European Strategy for People with Disabilities 2010-2020 that the EU would “take up the question of internal mobility on the open labor market and in sheltered workshops”, and announced that it intended to “ tackle the social security dependency of people with disabilities that keep them from entering the labor market ”.


In Austria , too , a legal distinction is made between “employable” and “non-employable”, with the latter being excluded from the general labor market. The EASPD chairman Wolfmayr tried from the beginning to undermine this system with the project "Chance B" in eastern Styria , which he led. His reasoning: “This regulation contradicts the UN Convention. Unfit for work cannot lead an equal life, they are not included in the statutory accident and health insurance and do not acquire any pension rights . Your pay is at pocket money level , sometimes less than ten euros. In order to avoid such a shameful status, we defined as many people as possible from the start as employable and brought them into the labor market with all the means available to us. ” Wolfmayr was accused by the Styrian Court of Auditors that he was maximizing costs with his innovations.


In Switzerland , the members of the association “INSOS” (“Institutions sociales suisses pour personnes handicapées / Social institutions for people with disabilities Switzerland”) look after around 25,000 people with disabilities in 300 workshops. The existence of such "protective workshops" is justified by the fact that not all people "- especially because of their limited employment opportunities -" can (can) find acceptance in Switzerland's open labor market. As in Germany, there are also day-care centers in Switzerland that offer day-structuring measures to people with particularly severe disabilities.


In France there are essentially two different types of workshops for the disabled:

Higher performing people are employed in "Entreprises Adaptées (EA)", in which the statutory minimum wage is paid and the people are classified as employees. These companies are managed by associations and are the responsibility of the Ministry of Labor in compliance with the general French Labor Code (“Code du Travail”).

For underperforming people with a capacity of less than 30 percent there is the “Etablissements et services d'aide par le travail (ESAT)”, formerly known as “Centers d'aide par le travail (CAT)”. Employees enjoy social protection in them. The Ministry of Labor is not responsible for them and therefore they are not covered by labor law.

There are far more “ESATs” than “EAs” in France. Both institutions employ the group of people who are employed in German WfbM. As in Germany, you receive state remuneration for each disabled employee. Art. L 344 of the “Code de l'action sociale et des familles” writes the following: “Centers for help through work - with or without a dormitory - accept young people and adults who are currently or permanently neither in ordinary companies or in one for Disabled sheltered workplaces or work on behalf of a home work distribution center can still carry out an independent professional activity. They offer them various opportunities for professional activities, support in medical and social terms and in education, as well as a living environment that promotes their personal development and social integration. "


Workshops for people with disabilities have existed in Poland since the early 1980s. They differ from German institutions primarily in their size. Traditionally, only around 20 to 30 people with disabilities find employment in a workshop. The Polish Workshop Act, which came into force in August 2012, does not specify a minimum size for workshops.

In 2012 there were 67 WfbM in Poland. On November 14th and 15th, 2012, the National Association of Polish Workshops ("ZPZAZ", in German: "National Association of Employers for Employment and Other Social Services") was founded.

Great Britain

The last workshop for people with disabilities in the UK closed in 2013. People with disabilities should find their place in the general labor market. The Federal Working Group for Workshops for Disabled People e. V. points out, however, that the closed facilities were more comparable to inclusion companies in Germany. At no time in the past has the right to participate in working life been put into practice in the UK for people with high support needs.


  • Horst H. Cramer: Workshops for disabled people . Beck CH, ISBN 3-406-52559-8
  • Florian Demke: Workshops for disabled people to integrate them into working life. The tension between exclusion and inclusion . GRIN Verlag, 2010, ISBN 978-3-640-72177-1
  • Marco Kreienbrink: Participation in the working life of people with disabilities in the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities using the example of workshops for disabled people . GRIN Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-656-48396-0
  • Antje Kronberg: Between education and production - quality management systems in workshops for disabled people . Verlag Martin Rossol , Pretzfeld, 2013, ISBN 978-3-944736-41-9
  • RAL Quality Association for Barrier Freedom (Ed.): Management Requirements WfbM Quality Plus 2013 - Terms and Criteria . epubli Verlag, Berlin, 2013, ISBN 978-3-8442-3070-3
  • Martin Rossol: Quality management in workshops for disabled people: The implementation of WfbM Quality Plus . VDM Verlag, Saarbrücken 2010, ISBN 978-3-639-25984-1
    • Sample manual AZAV - Carrier approval according to AZAV in the vocational training area of ​​workshops for disabled people . 2nd edition, epubli Verlag, Berlin, 2012, ISBN 978-3-8442-3320-9
  • Wolfgang Trunk: Quality of educational work in workshops for disabled people : DGQ volume 31–21; Berlin, Vienna, Zurich 2006

Web links

Commons : Workshop for disabled people  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files




Country comparison

Individual evidence

  1. a b workshop report - brand eins online. Retrieved March 10, 2018 .
  3. Federal Association of Workshops for Disabled People (BAG WfbM)
  4. As of 2015, Hans-Günther Ritz: Participation of people with significant disabilities in the labor market . Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. September 2015, p. 17
  5. Figures from 2017 according to BAGüS , "Key figures comparison of integration aid of supra-local social assistance providers" of the "Federal Working Group of supraregional social aid providers" (BAGüS)
  6. Living Museum Online (LEMO): Friedrich von Bodelschwingh 1831-1910 . German Historical Museum
  7. Mario Schreiner: Socio-historical milestone or social isolation? - Workshops for disabled people in twilight. Section “Creation of a caring handicapped aid in the German Reich” . German Association for Rehabilitation (DVfR). October 20, 2017, p. 2 f.
  8. Working in Bethel: The workshops for people with disabilities .
  9. 50 years of Heidelberger Werkstätten 1962–2012 . Lebenshilfe Heidelberg. 2012, p. 39
  10. ^ Federal Association of Workshops for Disabled People (BAG WfbM) e. V .: What exactly are "workshops for disabled people"? . May 14, 2013
  11. Mario Schreiner: Socio-historical milestone or social isolation? - Workshops for disabled people in twilight . German Association for Rehabilitation (DVfR). October 20, 2017, p. 5
  12. State Working Group on Labor | Education | Participation Lower Saxony: New name of the LAG: WfbM Lower Saxony . February 15, 2020.
  13. ^ For example, Lower Saxony State Office for Social Affairs, Youth and Family: Closure of the workshops for people with disabilities (WfbM), day care centers (Tafö) and comparable services. Circular . March 19, 2020
  14. Corona: Intellectual disability does not mean an increased risk . June 18, 2020, accessed August 25, 2020
  15. Mario Schreiner: Socio-historical milestone or social isolation? - Workshops for disabled people in twilight. "Conclusion" section . German Association for Rehabilitation (DVfR). October 20, 2017, p. 6
  16. a b “Opinion of the BeB on the law on the United Nations Convention of December 13, 2006 on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol of December 13, 2006. S.17 " (PDF; 97 kB)
  17. "ISB Study" , accessed on August 10, 2009, p. 233
  18. Family Federation of Catholics in the Diocese of Würzburg e. V .: Day funding center
  19. ^ Hessian Ministry for Social Affairs and Integration: Day care centers for people with intellectual disabilities
  20. ^ Landesarbeitsgericht Baden-Württemberg: Judgment of January 26, 2009 · Az. 9 Sa 60/08
  21. ^ Greedy welfare . Taz , July 15, 2011
  22. Judgment: No minimum wage for disabled people in workshops for the disabled. Labor court Kiel: claim requires employee status , VDK , November 4, 2015
  23. Alexander Bendel, Caroline Richter, Frank Richter: Preliminary remark in the Expertise Remuneration and Remuneration Regulations in Workshops for People with Disabilities. Department of Economic and Social Policy of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation
  24. a b So far there are only individual projects , Badische Zeitung , November 21, 2014
  25. Disability pension ,, October 11, 2016
  26. Work and employment . Praetor Intermedia UG
  27. Alexander Bendel, Caroline Richter: The triple mandate of workshops. Pay in the field of tension between rehabilitation - inclusion - profitability . In: Werkstatt-Dialog 5/2017, p. 31 ff.
  28. Work and employment . www.behä
  29. a b Georg Cremer / Franz Fink: Competition must remain fair between unequal partners . In: new caritas . Edition 04/2014. February 24, 2014, accessed March 13, 2018
  30. BGBl. 1994 I p. 3146 .
  31. First State Report of the Federal Republic of Germany on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities , 2011, p. 70
  32. 0.32 percent (ZB 2/2008 )
  33. Newsletter 53 ° NORD, May 2017
  34. ^ State working group of workshop councils in North Rhine-Westphalia
  35. ^ Federal Association of Workshop Councils in Berlin, founded on the BAG WfbM website , accessed on January 6, 2012
  36. LAG Schleswig-Holstein, decision of January 11, 2016 - 1 Sa 224/15
  37. before August 1, 2016 75 euros / month
  38. before January 1, 2017 26 euros
  39. According to information from the Federal Statistical Office , quoted from the website of the Federal Working Group for Workshops for Disabled People BAGWfbM [1] , accessed June 7, 2010
  40. Annex (to Section 28) of SGB XII
  41. By changing Section 82, Paragraph 3, Clause 2 of SGB XII on January 1, 2017, the proportion of deductible additional earnings was increased from 25% to 50%.
  42. based on the values ​​for 2018: earnings of € 159 exceed one eighth (€ 52) of the standard requirement level 1 (€ 416) by € 107. Of this additional income, 50% (53.5 €) should be used for the dormitory costs. The average earner has a residual income of € 105.50.
  43. ↑ No special schools zone - brand eins online. Retrieved March 10, 2018 .
  44. ^ Rainer Kreuzer: Debate handicapped justice: Greedy welfare . In: The daily newspaper: taz . July 15, 2011, ISSN  0931-9085 ( [accessed on March 10, 2018]).
  45. Ilona Mirtschin: Unemployment of severely disabled people . Federal agency for work. Statistics / Labor Market Reporting Department. April 2019, p. 10 (PDF), accessed on January 7, 2020
  46. a b Dorothea Brummerloh: The ideal world of workshops for people with disabilities , , Dossier , April 15, 2016
  47. Inclusion Commission: Goals and measures for the implementation of the UN Disability Rights Convention in Lower Saxony . Lower Saxony Ministry for Social Affairs, Health and Equality (ed.). September 2016, p. 24 (point II.5.34)
  48. a b BAG WfbM on WISO report , Federal Association of Workshops for Disabled People (BAG WfbM), 7 April 2015
  49. Inclusion Commission: Goals and measures for the implementation of the UN Disability Rights Convention in Lower Saxony . Lower Saxony Ministry for Social Affairs, Health and Equality (ed.). September 2016, p. 23 (point II.5.16) online
  50. Inclusion Commission: Goals and measures for the implementation of the UN Disability Rights Convention in Lower Saxony . Lower Saxony Ministry for Social Affairs, Health and Equality (ed.). September 2016, p. 23 (point II.5.19)
  51. Sabine Wendt: Disabled people in European workshops for the disabled are employees under Union law. Comment on ECJ, ruling v. March 26, 2015, C-316/13 (case Fenoll) . Severely handicapped and labor law, in-company integration management - Discussion contribution No. 14/2015 - (Ed .: German Association for Rehabilitation). 2nd December 2015
  52. Vera Neugebauer: WfbM as part of the rehabilitation chain . Network AUTISMUS Lower Saxony - project group "Integration into working life" . 17th September 2010
  53. ↑ Develop an understanding of remuneration: BAG WfbM in exchange with the Federal Association of Self-Help for the Body Disabled e. V. ,, June 5, 2014
  54. What are "workshops for disabled people"? ., May 14, 2013
  55. Heiko Kunert: Workshops and Inclusion: A Contradiction? ., November 23, 2011
  56. 53 ° North: Interview with Friedhelm Pfeiffer . Clear course . Edition February 2010
  57. a b Priority for the labor market, workshops are the exception , Chance B, 23 August 2011
  58. "Our way to an inclusive society". National Action Plan 2.0 of the Federal Government on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UN-CRPD) , Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, April 18, 2016. p. 37
  59. Published in: Bohnenstengel, A. (2002): SOS Dialog, specialist magazine of the SOS Children's Village eV Living self-determined! But how?
  60. Why does the WfbM have a bad reputation? , 53 ° north, clear course , August 2012 edition
  61. ^ UN-BRK and the workshops for disabled people , EASPD, 2012
  62. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions . November 15, 2010. p. 21
  63. About us , Chance B
  64. ^ Disabled people: Wolfmayr gives the tour , Kleine Zeitung , October 10, 2012
  65. INSOS: workshops
  66. Preface , INSOS, 2008
  67. day care , INSOS
  68. Sabine Wendt: Disabled people in European workshops for the disabled are employees under Union law. Comment on ECJ, ruling v. March 26, 2015, C-316/13 (case Fenoll) . Severely handicapped and labor law, in-company integration management - Discussion contribution No. 14/2015 - (Ed .: German Association for Rehabilitation). December 2, 2015, p. 2 (Note 1)
  69. Philippe rental and Bruno GAURIER: France - Largely influenced by the medical model . (Ed .: Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung ), p. 6
  70. BAG WfbM congratulates: Poland found Association of Workshops , Federal Working Group WfbM, November 19, 2012
  71. ^ Eva Keller: Goodbye, workshop . People. Das Magazin (Ed .: Aktion Mensch). 2014
  72. ^ German-British exchange on workshops , Federal Association of Workshops for Disabled People (BAG WfbM), November 18, 2015