Government grant for new Southampton and Portsmouth scheme will help those with musculoskeletal and mental health conditions stay in work

The Well@Work project will enable people to stay in work by helping them to manage their conditions themselves

A local scheme managed by Southampton City Council to help people in Southampton and Portsmouth with muscoloskeletal and mental health conditions to stay in work has received a £375,000 grant from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The scheme - Well@Work - is among 19 innovative projects set to receive almost £4 million in government funding nationwide under the new Work and Health Challenge Fund. The fund is the latest in a series of government measures which form part of a 10-year strategy to get one million more people with disabilities in work by 2027.

The Well@Work project will enable people to stay in work by helping them to manage their conditions themselves and making it easier to access advice and support. It builds on an existing partnership programme between councils, Solent NHS Trust, Arthritis Research UK/MRC Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work, GP practices and employers. The project partners have developed an in-depth understanding of the support required by people who are out of work and will apply their experience to people in work. We are building on a localised integrated model of delivery which has already demonstrated substantial progress in bringing together health service professionals and employment advice services.

Well@Work will go a step further by extending the project to work with people at risk of losing their jobs and testing different referral routes to find the most effective way for people to access the service.

Other projects funded by the Work and Health Challenge Fund include a new mobile phone app which aims to ease lower back pain by giving sufferers a personalised self-management plan; and an app to help individuals understand signs of mental ill health, including access to a Vocational Rehabilitation trained advisor.

The funded projects will help government and partner organisations develop future policy by providing more personalised feedback on the experience of disabled people in work.

Cllr Dave Shields, Cabinet Member for Health and Community Wellbeing, Southampton City Council, said: “Southampton and Portsmouth City Councils have worked together to develop an innovative project to provide support to people at risk of losing their jobs due to a health condition. We are delighted to work with the Work and Health Unit to test the best referral routes for workers and their employers needing help. We will be working with employers, mental health professionals, pain services and GPs to find out the most effective ways of reaching people and helping them to keep their job.”

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Sarah Newton said: “We want to harness the power of technology to tackle the disability employment gap, and these novel ideas will help us to achieve our goal of seeing one million more disabled people in work.”

“The Challenge Fund has given experts on the ground the opportunity to come up with ideas on how best to support people to manage their health conditions at work, and the financial backing to take those ideas forward. I congratulate those successful in securing funding and look forward to working with them to develop these innovative ideas.”

The Challenge Fund is a joint initiative between the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care, and has a focus on mental health and musculoskeletal conditions - some of the most common health conditions in the workplace.

It will ensure that people whose health conditions may have previously held them back in the workplace or even caused them to drop out of employment can benefit from the latest innovations and tailored support.

Minister for Mental Health and Inequalities Jackie Doyle-Price said: “No one should be held back at work because they are living with mental ill-health or a long-term health condition and this fund marks an important milestone in improving people’s quality of life and helping them thrive in the workplace.”

“Physical and mental health should have parity in the workplace and today’s announcement takes us one step closer to achieving our ambition for better mental health for all. I look forward to seeing how this fund transforms people’s lives by maximising the benefits technology has to offer.”

The initiatives will address one or more of the following four broad areas of focus:

  • Self-management support: Providing advice to individuals on how they can self-manage their conditions to enable the individual to retain employment
  • Work capacity advice and support: identifying and exploiting opportunities that give people high-quality, actionable advice about their ability to do differing types of work, considering their wider needs and barriers to work
  • Adjustments to working environments: Developing new approaches to help individuals and employers identify appropriate workplace solutions, or alternative ways of working that facilitate work participation
  • Joining up services: Strengthening communication, liaison, or joint action between those involved in achieving better work-related outcomes for those with mental health and/or MSK conditions