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November 22, 2023
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ADPH call for more from Back to Work Plan

Directors of Public Health (DsPH) are calling on the Government to do more to improve working-age health as part of the new Back to Work Plan which was expanded on in today’s Autumn Statement.

The plan, announced earlier this month, aims to support people to get back to, and remain in work in a bid to tackle the rising numbers of people unemployed due to long-term sickness or disability.

While some of the measures, like improving access to NHS Talking Therapies, the Government’s Restart Scheme and WorkWell programme have been welcomed, the Association of Directors of Public Health (ADPH) warn that punitive measures like ending access to benefits could do more harm than good.

Ruth Tennant, ADPH Board Member, explained:

“With record numbers of people having health conditions that either limit the work they can do or who can’t work because of health conditions, we welcome the increased Government focus on health and work. We recognise that some workplaces have taken major steps to improve the health and well-being of their workforce as it’s good for business. We’d like to see further steps taken to encourage businesses to invest in workplace health and well-being as a key productivity tool – and the right thing for their staff.

“Good work is a key determinant of our health and wellbeing, and we absolutely agree with the Government that people should be supported to get back into work if they are able to. However, it isn’t always straightforward and there are currently too many people unable to access employment that meets their needs. Before introducing punitive measures, we need to ensure that businesses themselves, as well as individuals, are being supported to help retain their staff by encouraging inclusive and diverse cultures and promoting health and wellbeing.

“Crucially though, we need bold, long-term thinking to improve working age health, to act earlier to tackle preventable long term health conditions, to support people with physical and mental health conditions to thrive at work and to provide more coordinated support for people to take steps back into the labour force. We need to understand and address the specific barriers faced by those most affected by work limiting health conditions and make sure initiatives target these groups. This needs a bold coalition across government, businesses and communities to address the barriers to work and to build healthy workplaces.

“The tobacco proposals are one example where Government are getting it right. By preventing the next generation from becoming addicted to smoking, we will be freeing them – and the economy – from the financial and physical burden of tobacco-related illness, which currently costs society £17bn every year through lost productivity, and health and social care costs.”

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