While Frederik Wauterickx started working at Creatief Schrijven vzw as an administrative assistant with a permanent contract in August last year, it wasn’t until recently that both he and his employer found out that he was the first person with Down’s syndrome to be officially employed in Flanders.
Wauterickx and the Creatief Schrijven team were surprised to be told by GRIP, the human rights organisation for people with disabilities, that this was a first in the region.
“Getting this job was exciting for me of course, mainly because I had taken the initiative to start working for a fixed wage,” Wauterickx told The Brussels Times.
“I get along very well with my colleagues and with my boss. We work on many projects on a regular basis and also on several things during important literary days throughout the year,” he added.
Wauterickx’s passion for literature was one of the reasons why he wanted to work with the organisation.
“I have been working on writing my own book for a while now, that is one of my goals to finish it, so I am working on that in my spare time,” he said.
He works for the support centre for writing enthusiasts three days a week, and the team said it “already can’t do without him.”
“Together with Frederik, we went looking for where his talents lie, what he likes to do and where the match lies with the work we have to offer,” said Creatief Schrijven director An Leenders in a GRIP press release published on Wednesday.
She added that one of the company’s goals is to help build an inclusive society, and that “everyone is entitled to equal opportunities, regardless of disability, race, or gender.”
GRIP pointed out that, in Flanders, some people say that working is not worthwhile “because of the loss of benefits: income substitution benefit (IVT) and integration benefit (IT).”
“However, this is not correct. Working in the regular labour market always pays off. This does not alter the fact that it can still be done better and that adjustments to the regulations are required for this,” said Marleen Billen, spokesperson for GRIP.
Employers who employ a person with a disability are entitled to the Flemish Support Premium (VOP), however, Flemish Minister of Work Hilde Crevits wants to go a step further and is currently working to include a budget for support and guidance.
Both GRIP and Creatief Schrijven are calling on employers to give people with Down’s syndrome, and more generally people with a significant distance to the labour market, the opportunity to work in the regular labour market on a paid basis.
Wauterickx is excited about what is going on in his life at the moment, and he is also already looking forward to what is coming next.