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New scheme launched to help people on sick leave back to work

20 February 2009

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A new pilot scheme aims to help people on sick leave back into work more quickly.

The Fit for Work Service Programme of Piloting, backed by £13m, will test out how sickness absentees can be helped to recover and supported to get back to work more quickly than would otherwise be the case. They will test a range of different ways of providing support, to identify what works best.

The programme was launched yesterday (20 February 2009) by Care Services Minister Phil Hope and Work and Pensions Minister Lord McKenzie.

Each pilot will test personalised, back-to-work support for people off sick. The range of services within a pilot should go beyond just healthcare and join up local services, including:

  • Skills advice.
  • Employment advice.
  • Health and wellbeing services with a particular focus on vocational rehabilitation.
  • Wider social support such as debt or housing advice.
  • Conciliation to overcome escalated disputes between employees and employers.

The Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions are jointly calling for organisations to come forward to participate in the pilot process from today. The pilots are expected to begin later this year.

Phil Hope said: “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 £100bn cost of worklessness caused by ill health.”

“These pilots will help us test different ways of helping people back to work, so we can see what really works. I want local authorities, PCTs and other providers to put their innovative ideas behind these pilots, which can only have social and economic benefits for their areas.”

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.”

The Fit for Work programme of pilots is part of a package of measures announced by the government in response to Dame Carol Black’s review of Britain’s working age population, which also included “fit notes”.

Fit for Work Service