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Fit For Work EuropeThe Work Foundation

Fit EU Blog

Discourse on work and wellbeing in the EU

Archive for April, 2013

Independent Advisory Service must have the right resources and incentives to be effective

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Last week (11 April) Professor Stephen Bevan, Fit for Work Europe founding president and a director at The Work Foundation, highlighted why the Government’s proposed Independent Advisory Service for  helping people with health problems return to work must do more for those with long term conditions.   In an interview with Radio 4’s In Business, Professor Bevan spoke of the need for a holistic service which uses the input of occupational clinicians. He argued that tailored support for individuals would help keep people in work long term and called for the service to take a different approach to the  Work Capability Assessments. He proposed that employers and employees work together to  find ways  for individuals to return to work.

Research by Fit for Work (FfW) UK has highlighted the immense difficulties people with musculoskeletal conditions (MSDs) face trying to remain  in work.  FfW UK’s recent study of 809 people diagnosed with a MSD (published in December 2012) found that three quarters of survey respondents who were retired said their condition had influenced their decision to leave the labour market. While the majority retired before reaching the age of fifty-five. The findings revealed further barriers to employment. Within three years of diagnosis, half of people with rheumatoid arthritis are registered as work disabled.  Inability to stay in work may have a further spill over effect into the wellbeing and financial stability of entire households which is especially worrying as , 57.4 % of respondents who were not in work had been primary income earners before leaving their job. It was also clear from the FfW findings that work needs to be introduced into the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Groups) Outcomes Indicator Set as an clinical outcome for people with MSDs as early as possible.

As  Professor Bevan says, “Returning to the workforce after an absence can be incredibly hard for people with long term conditions like musculoskeletal disorders, and it gets harder the longer one is not working.  The new Independent Advisory Service will make a difference to thousands of people every year if helps  people work with their employer to find ways to stay in their job. This will require a true partnership between the service, clinicians, employers and people using it and we urge the government to encourage this approach in its design of the service, for example, by ensuring all targets incentivise keeping people at  work for the long term.”

You can listen to the programme again at this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01rr7zj

Posted in FfW UK Coalition | Comments Off on Independent Advisory Service must have the right resources and incentives to be effective
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Is chasing GDP growth the only way to prosperity?

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Like it or not, Gross Domestic Product – GDP – has become one of the most important statistics of the modern age, the data of which is regularly argued over by politicians and economists. The anxious wait each quarter for the latest estimate of GDP from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reminds me of the way the Faithful waited to see the white smoke emerge from the Vatican chimney during the election of Pope Francis last month.

Economists like Jonathan Portes of the National Institute for Social and Economic Research (NIESR) must be getting weary of warning us all not to read much into one set of figures and to take a longer view. But we all know that the next set of figures will tell us if we are in a ‘triple dip’ recession or not, so most journalists will probably ignore Mr Portes’ sage advice and will use the data to either hail recovery, or condemn further decline…

Beyond this GDP frenzy, however, a growing number of thoughtful people are asking whether this singular focus on GDP is getting us anywhere. Indeed, some are arguing that it can be doing real, long-term damage. Yesterday, I was among speakers at a seminar organised by the ALDE political grouping in the European Parliament debating this issue, and how we navigate the tension between ‘Qualitative development and Quantitative growth’. Organised and chaired by Sir Graham Watson, MEP and Dr Antonya Parvanova MEP, (Co-President of The Work Foundation’s Fit for Work Europe Coalition, by the way), the event attracted speakers from the European Commission, WHO Europe, academia and prominent NGOs.

The debate went beyond the ‘happiness’ or subjective wellbeing movement which has been a feature of recent initiatives in the USA, UK and France (not forgetting the redoubtable in Bhutan, which has gone further than any of them). Instead, we discussed how citizens, policy makers and opinion leaders might better use the emerging evidence base to improve quality of life and inequality, move away from silo-budgeting and explore social return on investment models. Speakers pointed out the dangers of a dash to increase consumption as a way of kick-starting growth, especially if this consumption led to negative consequences for public health, inequality or social cohesion which – in the long-run –is more expensive to society.

My own presentation focused on three challenges in the EU labour market:
•    The often non-economic scarring effect of youth unemployment, drawing on the work of colleagues at The Work Foundation who have looked at international experiences of managing youth unemployment.
•    The decline in job quality or ‘Good Work’ in recent years and how this may affect employee engagement, productivity and wellbeing.
•    The growing burden of chronic illness in the EU’s working age population and how, if ignored, it could be a major impediment to competitiveness, social inclusion and the reduction of social inequality.

Overall, the event concluded that chasing GDP growth alone was a fool’s errand and that more cutting-edge thinking was needed to find practical alternatives which can act as a ‘corrective’ to some of the perverse incentives inherent in the current system.

Posted in Health Economics | Comments Off on Is chasing GDP growth the only way to prosperity?
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