Unlocking the cycle of unemployment and ill health
People often talk about work related problems, such as stress or RSI but there is very little more unhealthy for a working age person than being unemployed. A job provides a person with obvious advantages, such as wages, but can also bring many others, such as improved self-esteem, better physical health and improved family relationships.
A study of people in the Wirral estimated that each 1% increase in unemployment would cause 3 deaths, 267 cases of long term limiting conditions and 370 people with mental ill health (Health effects of unemployment: Wirral Performance and Public Health Intelligence Team: 2012)
Sometimes people find themselves in a vicious circle, where ill health makes it difficult to for them to work but the consequences of not working exacerbate the health condition. Take severe anxiety as an example. This debilitating mental health condition makes it very difficult for a person to work. Worries about interactions with others, the way in which one is perceived, concerns about the consequences of failure can keep a person from seeking work. Not working, however, increases anxiety through leaving hours unfilled with activity, lack of purpose and practical problems like being short of money.
The Work and Health Programme will unlock this cycle by providing individuals with the opportunity to find solutions. The approach will need to be motivational, encouraging the engagement of programme users while working through a range of interventions and provision that will improve their wellbeing, leading to employment.
It will be crucial to develop a strong, empathic rapport with the individual and understand what the principal factors have been to keep them from working. They can then be supported to put together a plan that includes therapeutic input, skills training and work on making ready for employment. Each plan will be different, as each person is different.
One important factor in this is giving individuals the opportunity to learn “health literacy”. This is the capacity to make good decisions about how to enhance health and how to access the most appropriate services when needed. This makes life more straightforward. Many of the people who wait for long periods in A&E are only there because they do not know how to navigate the NHS.
There will also be a place for self and mutual help within the programme. To some extent, the more those individuals can build up personal resilience and support networks at an early stage, the more likely they are to maintain employment. This might be through “buddying” with other people and problem solving together. It could be through using their smartphone as a resource, using free apps that assist with anxiety or alcohol dependency. In the end the outcome of sustained employment will be achieved by the individual, the programme can assist them to put the framework in place for that achievement.
We welcome the Work and Health Programme and the opportunity it brings to transform the lives of some of the most neglected people in our society.
We are at the Public Sector show on the 27th June 2017 at ExCeL, London – come and join us at stand 558 for a chat about our work and experience delivering public sector contracts.