Spring Budget: funding to tackle leading health causes keeping people out of work

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The Spring Budget has set out more funding for mental health, musculoskeletal conditions and cardiovascular disease to support more people to stay in work.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt pledged £406 million to tackle the leading health causes keeping people out of work, with help for those who are “forced to leave work” because of suffering from back pain or a mental health issue.

Out of the total, £150 million over five years will be given to increase employment advisers in health settings to support those with long-term conditions.

Hunt added that “occupational health provided by employers has a key role to play” and that he would double funding for a pilot to assess the value of a subsidy for occupational health provision for SMEs.

Digital resources such as apps to manage back pain will be made "readily available" for people, alongside digitalisation of the NHS Talking Therapies programme.

7.3 million working days were lost last year due to musculoskeletal disorders, like back pain (HSE). Photograph: iStock

Think tank, Demos said the commitment to increasing occupational health support for SMEs was the ‘right decision’: “Today’s announcement represents a significant first step, but the government should go further in the future. A relational approach to employment support should be made available to everyone, regardless of whether they have a long term health condition, enabling more people to access good work.”

Paul Fakley, engagement director of the British Safety Council welcomed the Budget’s plans, saying the support was ‘positive’: “We know the biggest cause of ill-health or absence from work is stress or poor mental health, followed by muscular-skeletal disorders, so the extra money and support announced here is positive, as is funding to help prevent suicide. There was also some extra funding announced for SMEs to provide occupational health support.”

But he added more could be done by government as well as employers: “The cost of living will continue to have a big impact on people’s wellbeing, despite the projected fall in inflation this year. Some employers can’t match this with pay increases, but there is much they can still do to support their staff, through financial awareness, flexible working and other incentives like vouchers and rewards.

“We know that good work is good for our mental and physical health, and employers have a vital role in improving the wellbeing of their staff both in and outside of work, which is why we are calling on the Government to go further and develop a National Wellbeing Strategy.”

The funding formed part of the government's plans to encourage more people back to work, with recent Office of National Statistics figures showing 488,290 people were economically inactive as of January this year.

Read the Spring Budget speech in full here


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