Hodge sets up scheme to entice sick back to work

18 May 00
Employment minister Margaret Hodge has revealed that the government is to set up four pilot schemes to examine ways of getting ill and disabled people off sickness benefits and back into work.

19 May 2000

Final plans for the pilots will not be ready until next month and the schemes are unlikely to be up and running before next year, but Hodge, the minister for disabled people, told a TUC conference on May 11 that eight pilot bids would be invited, of which four would be accepted. One scheme is expected to work specifically with sufferers of mental illness.

'If you are out of a job you quite quickly lose that feeling of confidence that comes from being in work,' she said.

'There's a lot of waste when people aren't given the support they need to stay in work. There is a significant cost to the individual, the employers, the state and the insurance companies. We need to move towards supporting individuals to progress towards independence in a job.'

Figures released by the Department for Education and Employment show that 3,000 people every week move from long-term sick leave to incapacity benefit. Of these, only 10% ever work again.

The pilots are intended to help people on incapacity and sickness benefits to enter employment by offering retraining and advice. Anyone on statutory sick pay for more than six weeks will be eligible.

Hodge told the conference, entitled 'Creating a healthier nation', that the pilots had the potential to help up to 21,000 individuals, who would be a mixture of disabled people and those who had been forced to give up work because of ill health.


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