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Our role in helping disabled people get back into work

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Public Health England has been working closely with the Joint Work and Health Unit in developing ‘Improving Lives: The Future of Work, Health and Disability’, which sets out the Government’s plan to get disabled people back into work. It takes into account the Green paper consultation launched last year and aspects of the Thriving at Work and the Good Work reports.

Improving Lives has highlighted the key role for PHE, in partnership with other national and local bodies, to deliver support so more people can achieve their employment potential.

We know that this will require action across the whole public health system and our ambition is to support all public health professionals to contribute.

The concept:

Health and work are inextricably connected.  Evidence shows that if an individual is in work it has a direct and positive impact on their health and wellbeing, as does a positive and supportive work environment.

Similarly, suffering from poor health can be a significant barrier to gaining, and remaining in, employment. This is why it is important people get the right support and adjustment they need to maximise their potential.

The current workforce:

Most working age adults in England spend a large proportion of their waking hours each week in the workplace, so this is key opportunity to improve the health of the nation. This is especially true for those in middle age where changes in lifestyle behaviours such as quitting smoking or becoming more physically active can really improve the chances of living a longer healthier life.

What we are doing to support this?

Improving Lives highlights three core strands of action over the next decade which aim to  fundamentally shift the system so it can better support people with health conditions to achieve their economic potential:

  1. Getting into and staying in work:

It is just as important to invest in supporting disabled people and people with long-term health conditions to enter work as it is supporting them to stay in work if they develop a long term health condition.

PHE is collaborating in partnership with Business in the Community, the Association for Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA) and others on tangible support for employers.

The Employer Toolkits we published earlier this year are providing strong evidence based solutions for employers of all sizes and in all sectors to create a more responsive and inclusive work environment.

We are also working with the Health and Safety Executive to develop a new national standard to support safer and healthier workplaces, which we hope to publish for consultation in late Spring.

  1. Improving and joining up across the three key settings:

Here our work is focused on improving and joining up across three key areas- the welfare system, the workplace and the healthcare system.

One of the challenges we have identified is helping the local system visualise the local issues and the economic return for closing the employment gap. To support local areas, PHE has published the wider determinants fingertips tool and the movement into employment investment tool as well as a suite of briefings on key issues. In the New Year we will be publishing a suite of locally tailored infographics which will provide useful visualisation of local data.

  1. Support for those who need it - whatever their health conditions:

People should be able to get the support they need, whatever their health condition or disability.  That includes people with more than one condition, with fluctuating conditions, or with less common or more complex conditions.

PHE is leading work with healthcare professionals to better understand how we can support the health system on this and enable those that need support.  This includes working in partnership with the Royal College of Occupational Therapy  to deliver face to face free training for clinicians across the NHS.

We have published an audit of the current approach to teaching about health and work in healthcare professional and business education. In late spring we will publish a new e-learning resource with Health Education England to help clinicians consider the concept of work as an enabler of health and wellbeing.

A healthy economy relies on a healthy workforce, which is key to improved productivity and sustained growth.

Moving into employment can have a transformative effect on the lives of those with poor health and can be a big help to those who develop conditions whilst in work.

By working together to drive effective employment support we can help people reach their full potential and lead happy, fulfilling lives and for a more inclusive and productive society.

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  1. Comment by Jules Cooper posted on

    The DWP's shambolic WCA and PIP assessment system are pushing sick and disabled people further away from work. I lost my PIP in October after an assessment that was so poorly done it made me laugh hysterically. I've spent the past 6 months racking up debt in order to pay the bills, stressing about how I'm going to eat at the end of every 2 week ESA payment cycle, not being able to attend social functions because I can't afford a taxi back if I have a back spasms, etc. My mental health has worsened severely, and my chronic pain is flaring for months at a time. This is not how you get me into work. All I can think about is surviving, and I've slipped so far back in terms of both physical and mental health that it'll take me months and months to get back to where I was. After my tribunal, of course, which is ~7 months from now. So a year of worsening conditions, probably 8 or 9 months to recover, and by then it'll be time for my ESA renewal.