Programme to boost employment support for people with disabilities and health conditions

A programme to support disabled people and those with long-term health conditions into employment has had a boost from Government – potentially worth millions of pounds.

The Government announced today (31st October 2016) in ‘Improving Lives: The Work, Health and Disability Green Paper’ that the West Midlands Combined Authority has got the go-ahead to design a large scale health-led employment trial.

If the trial subsequently wins Government approval it would mean access to further funding to deliver the scheme across the region.

The West Midlands is one of two areas in the country to receive initial funding after submitting a successful bid to NHS England, the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions in July.

The funding will be used to develop a three-year programme, between 2017 and 2020, to work with around 5,000 individuals with mental or physical health issues.

The programme will seek to test a range of measures to understand what works best in supporting people with long term health conditions and disabilities into work, through the integration of employment support and health services across the region.

The Rt Hon Norman Lamb MP, chair of the West Midlands Combined Authority Mental Health Commission, said: “This programme aims to dramatically improve supported employment services for people with mental and physical health issues in the West Midlands.

“Scaling up support across the West Midlands is hugely significant and will bring real benefits to hundreds of residents across the region, improving their skills and employability and, most importantly, their quality of life.

“At the same time, it will help to improve the local economy and reduce demand for health and social care services.”

WMCA lead for mental health, Cllr Pete Lowe, said: “This is wonderful news and I am delighted that we will be able to press ahead with this work.

“We are building on the insight from our Citizens Jury to identify key issues for people with mental health issues and areas where we can make a real difference – and employment is high on the list.”

Michael Macdonnell, NHS England’s Director of Strategy, said: “There are currently 4.8 million people of working age with a disability or long term condition who are out of work.

“We know that the right work can be good for health and well-being and support people to live happier and healthier lives, but first we need to understand how best to support people with health conditions and disabilities to return to or stay in work.

“We are very pleased to be working with Sheffield City Region and the West Midlands Combined Authority to help build this evidence and share what works with other local systems.”

The work to design a trial is also supported by the former National Clinical Director of Mental Health Geraldine Strathdee and the Chair of the Nuffield Trust Dame Carol Black, along with Sarah Norman, WMCA advisor to the Mental Health Commission Panel.

If the trial is given the go-ahead it is expected to be implemented from next spring.