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February 19, 2009

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Ministers kick-start ‘Fit for Work’ pilots

The Departments of Health and Work and Pensions are calling on

organisations to participate in a pilot scheme aimed at helping people

on sick leave return to work more quickly.

The £13m ‘Fit for Work’ Service Programme of Piloting will test a range of services designed to help sickness-absentees recover, and support them back into work. Rather than focus solely on health care, each pilot should join up several local services, including:

  • skills advice;
  • employment advice;
  • health and well-being services, with a particular focus on vocational rehabilitation;
  • wider social support, such as debt or housing advice; and
  • conciliation to overcome serious disputes between employees and employers.

Launching the scheme on Thursday, Work and Pensions minister Lord McKenzie said: “Now, more than ever, it’s important to help people who are sick to stay in work so that they can support themselves and their families.

“These Fit for Work pilots will help do just that. Everyone has the right to work and we want to design a fair system, which supports people so they can work when they are able.”

Workshops for those interested in applying to take part in the pilots will be held in the city centres of Edinburgh, Birmingham and Cardiff, on 16, 17 and 18 March, respectively.

Care services minister Phil Hope called on primary care trusts, local authorities and other providers to get behind the pilots. Echoing Lord McKenzie’s remarks, he added: “Good health for the workforce is good for business — every employer knows that. In the current economic climate it’s even more important that we cut the £100 billion cost of ‘worklessness’ caused by ill health.”

The programme is part of a package of measures announced last year by the Government in response to Dame Carol Black’s review of Britain’s working-age population. This package also includes fit notes that focus on what an individual can do, instead of what they can’t; a national centre for working-age health and well-being; and the introduction of health, work and well-being coordinators.

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