What is WorkWell? New trial explained after Sunak’s disability benefits news

The WorkWell trial is part of the Government’s major reforms to the disability welfare system

Albert Toth
Saturday 11 May 2024 09:28 BST
Martin Lewis issues message to people worried about DWP PIP benefit change proposals

A new service designed to help long-term sick people back into work will be piloted in 15 areas across England, DWP Secretary Mel Stride has announced.

The WorkWell programme is part of the Government’s sweeping changes to the welfare system, including a review of payments to people with mental health conditions, which prompted accusations of a “full-on assault on disabled people”.

From October, the £64 million pilot will connect people with a health condition or disability to local support services including physiotherapy and counselling to help them stay in or return to work.

For example, a GP could refer a patient with a bad back to WorkWell, where an adviser may contact their workplace to make adjustments such as flexible working or relocating their office to the ground floor, and help them access physiotherapy.

A release from the DWP and health department says they intend for a small number of the WorkWell sites to test their plans to find “new ways” of providing people with a fit note.

This means people who request a note could “have a work and health conversation and are signposted to local employment support services so they can remain in work”, according to the DWP.

Last month, Rishi Sunak announced a proposal to have so-called specialist work and health professionals charged with responsibility for issuing fit notes instead of GPs in a bid to end the “sick note culture”.

Areas trialling the WorkWell services include Birmingham and Solihull, Cambridgeshire, Greater Manchester, Leicester, parts of north London and South Yorkshire.

Mr Stride said: “We are rolling out the next generation of welfare reforms so that thousands more people can gain all the benefits work brings.

“Too many today are falling out of work in a spiral of sickness that harms their finances, their prospects and ultimately their health, where with the right workplace adjustments and help, this needn’t be the case.

“And so we have designed WorkWell, a groundbreaking new service, that will for the first time integrate health and work advice at the local level, as part of our plan to stem the flow into economic inactivity, grow the economy, and change lives for the better.”

Labour said it will “look closely” at any programme supporting people into work.

The party’s shadow work and pensions secretary Alison McGovern said: “But with a record number of people out of work due to sickness and millions of people on spiralling NHS and mental health waiting lists, we need a long-term plan to fix our NHS and get Britain working, not more pilots skirting around the edges.

“Labour’s plan to get Britain working will drive down NHS waiting lists, reform job centres, make work pay, and support people into good jobs across every part of the country. Change with Labour can’t come soon enough.”

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