Category Archives: Joanna Huxton

Work and health – have your say

Joanna Huxton, National Liaison Manager, Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing

One of the things I really enjoy about working at the Centre is that our work crosses a broad range of policy areas and it’s always exciting to be involved in a new work programme.

A government department we are currently working with is the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Right now, DWP are running a public consultation on the ‘Improving Lives: The Work, Health and Disability’ green paper, which has been jointly published with the Department of Health (DH).

The green paper focuses on how government and wider society can enable and support disabled people and people with long-term health conditions to reach their full potential and asks “What will it take to transform the employment prospects of disabled people and people with long-term health conditions?”. Government is consulting on a series of proposed plans and invites a wide-ranging debate about recognising the value of work as a health outcome.

One of these plans is a review of Statutory Sick Pay and GP fit notes and aims to support people to return to work faster and to sustain returns to work better than the current system does. GPs and perhaps other healthcare professionals will have a greater role to play in determining what support a person needs to help them return to work. Whether this be a tapered return over a period of time, or certain adaptions to the job role and/or workplace, or access to specialist support.

Another proposal is for Jobcentre Plus Work Coaches to be encouraged to signpost claimants to therapies to support them into work. To do this well, requires the Work Coaches being skilled in having conversations with people to form a greater understanding of what support they need to overcome their own personal barriers to work. More effective and personalised assessments should lead to improved referrals to specialist support and better outcomes for people. This requires the right specialist support to be available locally, developing local service provider networks and establishing ways of working together and sharing information well between partners.

A number of the consultation questions for the green paper have a focus on information sharing. Such as, asking how to share evidence between different benefit assessments to reduce the burden on claimants and on benefit decision-makers? How to bring about better work-focussed conversations between an individual, health professional, employer and Jobcentre Plus Work Coach? How to encourage innovation through local networks to improve health and work outcomes and consider different approaches to joint working such as co-location? How can government and local partners best encourage improved sharing of health and employment data?

My colleagues and I are delighted that information sharing is being considered within the green paper. It’s really important that information sharing is included early on in design when shaping how services will be delivered in the future.

To support the DWP/DH consultation, earlier this week my colleagues and I here at the Centre ran a workshop (on behalf of the joint Work and Health Unit) to capture the views of a range of partners and stakeholders including practitioners, commissioners, members of health & wellbeing boards and information governance experts.

At the workshop we discussed the information sharing issues currently faced, shared good practice together and explored how information sharing could be improved by strengthening the way in which government works at both a national and local level. The workshop was also an excellent networking and learning opportunity and a chance to share ideas. We’re currently reviewing all of the discussions and we’ll be producing a report which will capture these thoughts and sent back to the Work and Health Unit prior to the consultation deadline. You will also be able to read a copy of our report so if you’re not already signed up to our newsletter then sign up here to be the first to read it.

The consultation on the green paper remains open until 17th February. The Government are seeking a wide range of views and I urge you to consider making your own response. They want to hear from employers, healthcare professionals, employment support providers and services which support people with disabilities and health conditions. They also want to hear from local leaders and commissioners in health, social care and from local authorities. They would especially welcome responses from people who have first-hand experience of being in work or would like to work. So please take the opportunity to provide your views. Click here to have your say.