Good practice for the social reintegration of former drug users in Portugal
The Dianova Viveiros de Floricultura plant nursery in Portugal was founded as a social enterprise project working for the social and vocational inclusion of rehabilitated substance abusers and unemployed people. The nursery set to work developing its operations in the rural development and multifunctional agriculture sector, focusing on the commercial production and sale of plants and flowers. From the outset, its activities were intended to help level the playing field for people seeking socio-vocational regeneration but disadvantaged when confronting the job market, achieving this aim by enabling them to develop new vocational skills and become fully empowered within a specialized field of work.
The Plant Nursery was established with Social Enterprise status as a Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs governmental policy measure for public employment, run by a non-profit organization. It began operating in April 2000, when Dianova was already engaged in a process of modernisation and growth. The project thus made it possible for our organization to establish a new operational area for intervention and support and to create a new, dedicated unit. The infrastructure was set up, the necessary equipment was acquired and the nursery began working towards its objective of empowering individuals who lack personal and vocational skills by providing specialized training and creating real jobs for them with a view to easing their entry onto the regular employment market.
The fact is that, the issue of social inclusion has always been a major concern for the former drug users who are now attempting to make their way back into society. Successful social integration is what creates the stable environment which enables people to start rebuilding their lives free from their destructive behaviours and addictive trajectories.
The governmental policy which led to the establishment of the nursery allowed Dianova to stand by its belief that, when provided with the necessary tools, people are able to find, within themselves, the resources to achieve autonomy, personal development and social inclusion. Throughout the past fifteen years, the Dianova Viveiros de Floricultura Plant Nursery has helped people to do just that by creating new jobs and fighting against social exclusion and poverty through vocational reintegration, providing them with the means to enhance their vocational and social skills and enabling them to rebuild their own lives.
Between 2000 and 2015, the Dianova Plant Nursery took on fifty-seven people, with thirteen of them coming via the Portuguese Institute of Employment and Professional Training (which operates within the structures of the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs) and forty-four via Dianova’s recruitment processes. Many of them were rehabilitated substance abusers, both male and female. During the final stage of treatment at the Quinta das Lapas Therapeutic Community, they were identified as being disadvantaged in terms of the job market because of their lack of vocational skills and/or a post-rehabilitation support network. Working at the Plant Nursery gave them a chance not only to develop the skills they would require in the world of employment, but also to find their feet in a safe and supportive environment designed to help them build and reinforce the tools they need to maintain their long-term sobriety and avoid relapses.
In addition, the nursery, which specialises in floriculture under cover, is also driven by a social ethos and the principles of sustainability and is focused on the production and sale of a wide array of plants and flowers, using modern production processes and providing quality at competitive and socially fair prices. Its annual output follows seasonal growth patterns and has reached a total of approximately 700,000 units of various species, including representatives of generaLavendula, Begonia, Gazania, Petunia, Verbena, Primula, Tagete, Dianthus, Brassica,Pelargonium, Lampranthus and Impatiens, as well as pansies and Jasmine nightshade amongst others.
In 2010, the Dianova Viveiros de Floricultura Plant Nursery was singled out for distinction for its achievements in serving the community and society when it received an Honourable Mention for the Manuel António da Mota Award given by António Manuel da Mota Foundation.
Unfortunately, though, as a result of the economic crisis and ensuing austerity programme, the Portuguese Government terminated this Social Enterprise measure in January 2015. However, despite all challenges that the initiative is currently facing, it now has five permanent employees who are supported by a temporary team during the peak selling seasons. Nonetheless, at this point in time, the end of the government support has made it essential for the Dianova Plant Nursery to redesign its intervention in the socio-reintegration field in order to continue giving of its best in terms of support and assistance through providing the right opportunities for those in our community who need a helping hand to get back on their feet and start out on the road to rebuilding their lives.