Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

December 9, 2015

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Government’s workplace health pledges from the Autumn Statement 2015

In his Autumn Statement, Chancellor George Osborne pledged more funding to help people with disabilities and health conditions get into work and remain in work.

This statement was welcomed within the health and safety industry, with the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH), saying the announcements were good news for the country’s workforce and of benefit to the economy.

The extra funding includes additional spending on Access to Work, which will provide specialist IT equipment or support workers to help 25,000 more disabled people remain in work each year, and plans to expand the Fit for Work service to support more people on long-term sickness absence with return to work plans.

Meanwhile £115 million will be given to the Joint Work and Health Unit. At least £40 million of this will be invested in a health and work innovation fund to pilot new ways to join up health and employment systems.

What the review says

On obesity and preventable ill-health: 

  • The government will take a national lead in tackling obesity as the leading cause of preventable ill-health, with a specific focus on protecting the health of our children. Details will be set out in a Childhood Obesity strategy in 2016. This will take account of what the evidence says is needed.

On health service and employment:

  • The government wants to improve links between health services and employment support, recognising timely access to health treatments can help individuals return to work quicker. Over £115 million of funding will be provided for the Joint Work and Health Unit, including at least £40 million for a health and work innovation fund, to pilot new ways to join up across the health and employment systems. To further integrate services and help people back into work, where it has been agreed as part of a devolution deal, local areas will co-design employment support for harder-to-help claimants.
  • The government will also publish a White Paper in 2016 that will set out reforms to improve support for people with health conditions and disabilities, including exploring the roles of employers, to further reduce the disability employment gap and promote integration across health and employment.

On employment for people with disabilities and health conditions:

  • Increasing employment levels amongst people with disabilities and health conditions is a key part of the government’s aim to achieve full employment. In the last year, the number of disabled people in employment has risen by 70,000 to over 3.2 million. But the benefit system continues to deliver poor outcomes for people with disabilities and health conditions, the report says.
  • Universal Credit will provide greater up-front support for claimants with disabilities and health conditions from the start of their claim and enable them to be referred to specialist support from day 1 where appropriate. To support this the Spending Review announces a real terms increase in funding to help people with disabilities and health conditions to get work and remain in work. This includes:
    – a real terms increase in spending on Access to Work, providing specialist IT equipment, or support workers, to help a further 25,000 disabled people each year remain in work; and
    –  expanding the Fit for Work service supporting more people on long-term sickness absence with return to work plans.

On mental health:

  • The Spending Review and Autumn Statement revealed that an extra £600 million will be invested in mental health services.

In addition to these measures the government wants to improve links between health services and employment support, recognising timely access to health treatments can help individuals return to work quicker.

Following the statement Richard Jones, IOSH’s Head of Policy and Public Affairs, said: “Effective management of health issues at work can both protect and improve people’s health and help foster a diverse and inclusive workforce.

“Better access to timely support, advice and treatments is good for individuals, for employers and for the economy.”

See the Autumn Statement and Spending Review for 2015 here.

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