Project launched to rehabilitate long-term sick

The
problem of workers on long-term sick leave is being tackled by a new
Government-backed initiative.

The
WorkCare project – funded by the Department for Work and Pensions in
partnership with the Department of Health – provides free rehabilitation
services to workers off sick for between six and 26 weeks.

The
scheme will run for two years, working with volunteers on long-term sick leave
to help them get back into their jobs.

The
West Midlands and South East regions were chosen as two of the six pilot areas
for the project, due to the high numbers in these areas on long-term sick leave
receiving incapacity benefits (IB).

Research
by WorkCare revealed that in the West Midlands, the number of people on leave
and receiving benefits is significantly higher than the national average of 4.3
per cent.

In
some areas of the South East, the number of people on IB was almost double that
in the rest of the UK. Areas covered by the WorkCare scheme include Sevenoaks,
Tonbridge, Medway, Dartford, selected areas of London, Birmingham,
Wolverhampton, Walsall, Telford and areas of South Staffordshire and Derby.

Andrew
Pemberton from WorkCare, explained: "Every week nearly 3,000 people enter
long-term incapacity due to ill health. Most remain out of work for many years,
relying on benefits.

"As
a result, we now have nearly 2.7 million people in the UK not working due to
ill health. DWP Work Minister Nick Brown said this situation was ‘a waste of
both human and taxpayers’ resources.

"WorkCare
will test the impact of funding extra healthcare and workplace support to see
whether it improves people’s chances of getting better, returning to work and
keeping their jobs. 

"The
assistance given to people will be carefully evaluated to see whether it is
more effective than the services currently available."

WorkCare
will also run in four other pilot areas across the country: Greater Glasgow,
Teesside, Tyneside and Sheffield. 

The
innovative project is free of charge and is open to employed and self-employed
volunteers who have been off work.

Assistance
available to participants in the scheme will be in addition to whatever is
currently available to the participant, as the scheme is designed to boost
existing services within pilot regions.

Human
Focus Return To Work Ltd will deliver WorkCare services in Birmingham, West
Kent and London areas under contract to the DWP. Pilot service providers will
publicise the research project in each area and encourage volunteers by working
with health professionals and employers.

The
Freephone telephone number for people wishing to join the scheme is 0800 052
1659 or Freepost WorkCare or visit the website at www.workcare.co.uk.

By Ben Willmott

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