UK Govt Launches New WorkWell Scheme to Support Long Term Sick or Disabled Workers

In November 2023, the Government launched the new WorkWell Scheme to support workers with disabilities or long-term sicknesses. This followed the Office for National Statistics stating that over 500,000 young individuals don’t work due to long-term illness.

The Government’s goal involves helping such individuals remain in or return to work. Below, we discuss the Scheme in more detail and outline some potential associated pros and cons.

What is the New WorkWell Scheme?

The new WorkWell Scheme, launched last November, aims to support around 59,000 people in England. It will target disabled individuals and those with health conditions to ensure they remain at work or return following rehabilitation.

To hit their goals, the Government will provide assessments and ‘low-intensity holistic support’ to navigate around “health-related barriers to employment”. Furthermore, to ensure the right people get the support they need, the Government will implement local gateways to the service.

The support will be trialled in 15 areas and help individuals with musculoskeletal and mental health conditions. What’s more, the service will be provided by teams of professionals with various skill sets. This includes occupational therapists, physiotherapists and vocational rehabilitation professionals. Individuals could also receive help through running clubs or life coaches.

Ultimately, Mel Stride, the work and pensions secretary, and Victoria Atkins, the health secretary, summarised the Government’s targets. They explained, “We know the longer someone spends out of work, the harder it becomes for them to find a job”. They also acknowledged that many on health benefits want to work and believe they could if provided the proper support.

As such, the new WorkWell Scheme will clearly focus on two key areas. That is catching those close to dropping out of work and helping others return.

Pros and Cons of the Scheme

The ideology of the new WorkWell Scheme is good; however, in practice, it doesn’t just come with pros. Below, we address the pros and cons and the subsequent appropriate actions that should be taken, starting with the pros.

Shining a Light on Mental Health

By design, the Scheme doesn’t just support those with musculoskeletal issues but also those struggling with their mental health. This is excellent news for employers, as they can access resources like counselling services to support their employees. Moreover, employees may feel that, through the additional support, their workplace is more understanding.

Bringing Flexible Working into Focus

The WorkWell Scheme also balances an individual’s success at work with their physical and mental health. Flexible working can help achieve this by aiding an employee’s health and improving productivity.

Employee Development

Furthermore, the Scheme doesn’t just look at an employee’s health but also their career prospects. Through training, education and other development programmes, the Scheme could help individuals progress in their careers. In turn, this could motivate employees and allow them to feel valued.

Stronger Communities and Cultures

Finally, the WorkWell Scheme aims to achieve an overall better working environment through team building and improved workplace culture. It targets better communication and reduced stress to enhance employees’ job satisfaction and drive to succeed.

Yet, despite these promising pros that could result from the Scheme, some cons must be highlighted.

Support Shortfalls

Firstly, each organisation will likely take a different approach to delivering the support under the WorkWell Scheme. As such, one company may prioritise mental health whilst another focuses on an employee’s physical capabilities. In either instance, some support areas will receive fewer resources, leading to an imbalance. As such, some employees may feel unsupported.

Lack of Adaptation

Additionally, although the Scheme has the same goals for each organisation, how this could be achieved will differ. A company’s size, structure and industry could massively impact how the support should be provided. Therefore, it may prove ineffective if companies take a standard approach and don’t adapt the support to their specific needs.

Rapid Changes

Finally, even if a company adapts the WorkWell Scheme to their specific needs, these could change as they rapidly evolve. As such, if an organisation cannot update their approach in line with its constantly changing needs, the support could be outdated.

In conclusion, the new WorkWell Scheme is a step toward providing individuals with essential support. It could help them stay at work when they’re at risk of dropping out and quickly get others back to work. Despite this, employers should be careful to spread the support evenly, adapt to their specific needs, and keep up with changes to ensure the support remains effective.

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