Rt Hon Damian Green MP
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Department for Work and Pensions
22 February 2017
Dear Mr Green
Re: Working with Arthritis
I am writing to you to ensure that people with arthritis are supported to return to, and remain in, work following the close of the Government’s consultation on Improving Lives, The Disability Employment Green Paper. Arthritis is the single biggest cause of pain, disability, and working days lost in the UK. Over 32 million working days are lost every year due to arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, which cost the economy over £25 billion each year.
Arthritis Research UK estimates that the ‘arthritis employment gap’ is considerable, with the employment rate amongst people with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions 20% lower than amongst people with no condition or disability.
That means that around 600,000 people with arthritis are currently missing out on the opportunity to work, denied the opportunity of forging the meaningful careers that many of us enjoy.
While the painful and unpredictable nature of arthritis can make work too difficult for some, those who could work often do not receive the right support to deal with the limitations of their condition in the workplace. Many are forced to change jobs or leave work altogether.
For people with arthritis who simply cannot work because of their condition, it’s vital that they are supported by fair and timely access to welfare. But for those that can, it is crucial that the Government enables them to do meaningful work with their condition.
Work matters to many people with arthritis. It can help them to remain independent, giving them a sense of control while improving their quality of life, both psychologically and financially.
I believe that the Government’s Green Paper must lead to the delivery of better employment support for people with arthritis who want the opportunity to work, and a fairer welfare system for those who are not able to or cannot find work.
I urge you to heed the recommendations of Arthritis Research UK and improve the support for people with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions already in work so that they can stay in work for longer by:
- Investing more in the Access to Work scheme so employers and employees can get help with the costs of adaptations to the equipment people use, fares to work if someone cannot use public transport, or a support worker or job coach to help someone in their workplace
- Investing in promoting the ‘Access to Work’ grants so people with arthritis and employers are aware this support exists
- Invest in information campaigns and support so that employers gain a better understanding of the impact arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions have on employees
Improve the support people with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions receive when they’re out of work or trying to find work by:
- Catering the new ‘Personal Support Package’ announced in the Green paper specifically for people with arthritis. For example, making sure that Job Centre Plus work coaches and disability employment advisors receive musculoskeletal-specific training so they understand the condition and can properly address the needs of people with arthritis
- Taking further steps to ensure Work Choice and the new Work and Health Programme provide personalised, specific support for people with arthritis, and ensuring the budget for flagship government programmes supporting people to return to and find work is at least on a par with the budget for previous government programmes, such as the Work Programme.
- Supporting people who can’t work or are looking for work with a fair and timely welfare system and assessment, which meets the needs of people with arthritis.
And ensure the health system supports improve by
- committing to the identification of opportunities for regular collection of data about incidence, prevalence, clinical activity and outcomes of musculoskeletal patients and services in England
Sir Alan Meale MP