Government policy of pushing people of poor health from unemployment and into work is “likely to be ineffective”, according to a damning new report.
New research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), found that unemployed people of poor health are more likely to move from permanent to temporary or low-paid work than healthier workers. They are also more likely to slip back into unemployment.
Although those with mental health problems or addictions face the greatest barriers when trying to find and hold down a job, even those with physical health problems are “disadvantaged compared to people reporting good health”.
People with mental health issues face “lower wages, lower levels of educational attainment, a greater likelihood of having no qualifications, and a greater likelihood of being out of work when compared to people reporting good mental health.”
Of all the groups included in the study, unemployed people with alcohol or drug dependencies are the least likely to enter and stay in work.
Qualifications can help people with health issues move into work, the report finds. But those qualifications cannot completely overcome a sick persons barriers to sustained employment. However, they do reduce the likelihood of those people moving from better-paid jobs into low-paid or temporary employment.
JRF followed the same group of people over a period of time, in order to create an accurate picture into how poor health can affect a person both in and out of work.
Their findings paint a bleak prognosis and highlight how the government faces profound difficulties in reducing the number of people claiming sickness benefits. Simply pushing sick people off of benefits and into work, without first addressing their myriad of health issues, is unlikely to work in the long-term.
“People who report poor health are significantly less likely than those in good health to remain in employment”, the report says.
“They are also less likely to move from unemployment into employment, especially full-time and/or permanent employment. They are also less likely to move from economic inactivity to activity, and more likely to make the reverse transition.”
Unemployed people with health complaints who move into work are typically in “jobs that are generally considered to be of lower status” and could be reliant on in-work benefits to supplement low-incomes.
The report highlights how those of poor health tend to opt for temporary or part-time employment contracts, rather than full-time employment – possibly for obvious reasons. This leaves the government with a “policy challenge to help at least some of these people to enter more secure career paths with greater development opportunities”.
Findings suggest that poor health is intrinsically linked with the labour market and a persons employment status, says JRF.
JRF says the government “must address the wider issues related to individuals’ poor health status per se as well as applying other more conventional interventions, such as training or job search support.”
Chancellor George Osborne is expected to reveal how the Conservatives will cut £12bn from welfare spending in an ’emergency budget’ in July. It is widely suspected that sickness and disability benefits could be targeted for cuts, with a greater emphasis on moving more people of poor health into work.
The number of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)/Incapacity Benefit (IB) claimants has increased by 64,000 since November 2013. Government figures show that 2.52million people were claiming either ESA or IB as of November 2014.