Headlines: December 15th, 2004

More areas of the country are to be covered by the Pathways to Work initiative, which has been running in pilot areas since last year. The extension is part of the government’s intention to base its policy on the best practice of doctors and employers to shape the strategy to help sick and disabled people back to work.The Minister for Work, Jane Kennedy, said joint working through the initiative had shown a doubling in the number of recorded job entries in the pilot areas compared to other parts of the country. About six times as many people are taking up further help to get back to work compared to the national average. The initiative combines job help by specially trained personal advisors, health advice from the NHS and better links with local GPs and employers.

There are currently seven pilots. The first, launched in October 2003, were in Renfrewshire, Derby and Bridgend with a further four launched in April this year covering Essex, Gateshead and South Tyneside, Somerset and East Lancashire. The extension of the scheme will see it operating in the Job centre Plus areas of Durham, Tees Valley, Lancashire West, Lanarkshire and East Dumbarton, Staffordshire, Barnsley and Rotherham, Manchester, Cumbria, Greater Mersey, Liverpool, Eastern Valleys, Swansea Bay, Glasgow and the City of Sunderland.

Jane Kennedy said there were many opportunities available to those who could work and the Government had to recognise its shared interests with the medical profession and employers. Proposals for further reform would build on this joint approach. Employment support will be available in doctors’ surgeries in pilot locations and Statutory Sick Pay will be looked at to ensure it delivers the right information and incentives to employers