The minister for disabled people, health and work, Sarah Newton, has urged employers to make adjustments for people with arthritis and musculoskeletal disorders to help increase job opportunities for those who feel traditional workplaces would be challenging for them.
Her call to action came following the launch of the government’s £4.2m Challenge Fund, which will fund research into new approaches that might help people with either musculoskeletal conditions or mental health issues stay in work.
The fund, which is managed by the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Health and Social Care, is available for around 20 research initiatives looking at:
- measures to help disabled people stay in work by increasing their ability to self-manage their conditions;
- new approaches to assist employers and colleagues in helping people with musculoskeletal or mental health conditions stay in employment; and,
- how systems can be joined up to improve communication, liaison or joint action between government and other organisations.
The fund was launched as part of government ambitions to get one million more disabled people in work by 2027.
According to charity Arthritis Research UK, arthritis and back pain account for 30 million working days lost each year.
Newton said: “We know there is a gap between disabled people who want to work and those who have the opportunity to do so.
“78% of people acquire their disability or health condition during their adult life, which is why we’ve launched the Challenge Fund to support those disabled people who want to work to stay in or return to employment.”
Arthritis Research UK chief executive Liam O’Toole said: “Arthritis and related conditions, like back pain, affect around 17.8 million people in the UK. We know arthritis can have a devastating impact and too often takes away the freedoms most of us take for granted.
“We are determined to help people with arthritis to maintain their health, wellbeing and independence, and we know that work is fundamental to that.”