The goverment have published a strategy called 'Improving Lives: The Future of Health, Work and Disability'
It follows on from a Green Paper published last year with the same title which went for comment to a variety of organisations, including NASS. There were some positives in the Green Paper but also things we felt were not addressed as we would have hoped.
This is a ten year programme and so it is hoped that it will be reviewed regularly to make sure the recommendations are working.
Here is a summary of the strategy and our response.
On the plus side...
- Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, like AS, feature strongly in the strategy which points towards a real recognition of the life changing effect having a condition like AS can have. There is a strong recognition to introduce more prompt and effective services for MSK; new models of care are currently being trialled.
- There is a focus on more inclusive workplaces and personalised employment. Incentives will also be offered to employers to employ disabled people.
- A change to Statutory Sick Pay will allow for a more phased return to work for those who have been away for a while.
- More support for self-employed people.
- The government have pledged to listen to patient groups about the reforms and how they working.
And flip the coin...
- Although it is good to incentivise, employers should not just be employing disabled people to ensure they are given grants and bonuses.
- Employment and Support Allowance is covered in the paper including a review of the process. However there is no planned review for the Work Capability Assessments; 68% of cases going to tribunal are successfully appealed which shows a huge need for a review.
- The paper does not acknowledge that some people simply cannot work, only going as far as to say those in the support group have 'limited capability for work'.
- We welcome that the group of health professionals able to offer a 'Fit Note' is being expanded. This means there will now be more professionals for people with AS to talk to about work. We are worried that the general lack of understanding about AS will lead some being declared fit to return to work, or to do a job that is unsuitable for their AS.
- Other barriers to working which often come hand and hand with having a disability have not been covered - for example access to transport.