Reforms promise jobs in safer work environments

Government programmes that will help small and medium-sized enterprises (SME's) provide a safer working environment and reduce work related ill health have been unveiled by Department for Work and Pensions Minister Lord Hunt.

Speaking at the Association of British Insurers (ABI), Lord Hunt said work related ill health currently costs the economy about £12 billion, a third of that being in the private sector - a massive cost to business and the UK economy.

Vocational rehabilitation programmes which promote health in the workplace are a key part of the Government's Health Work and Well-being Strategy which underpins the health related components of the Welfare Reform Bill, which was introduced last week.

Lord Hunt said: "Through the Workplace Health Connect programme we are delivering advice on occupational health, safety and return to work to small and medium-sized enterprises.

"Businesses lose around 40 million days to occupational ill health. This has a very real impact on the performance of the business and on the emotional well being of the individual.

Strong scientific evidence connects worklessness with adverse health conditions; depression, anxiety, obesity and suicide being amongst the most prevalent.

Lord Hunt continued: "Most new Incapacity Benefit (IB) customers expect to return to work when they claim but after two years on IB they are more likely to retire or die on benefit than they are to return to work. This is not acceptable.

"Moving people quickly from ill health, to improved health, to work is a priority for this government and is central to the Welfare Reform bill.

"The new Welfare Reform Bill will provide tailored support to all IB customers to get them back into the labour market, to rebuild their confidence and the opportunity to refresh their skills."

The 'Pathways' service will be phased into areas in England, Wales and Scotland beginning in October 2006 and is expected to be implemented in all Job centre Plus districts by April 2008.


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