Collaborative partnership takes national approach to deliver better outcomes for workers with health conditions

A public-private sector initiative takes a national approach to improve participation for Australians with health conditions that affect their ability to work.

The Collaborative Partnership to improve work participation has been established by Comcare and was launched on Wednesday, March 7. It is focused on aligning the various sectors of the country’s work disability system to deliver better outcomes for workers with temporary or permanent physical or mental health conditions.

The Partnership, which includes the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA), the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM), insurer EML, the Department of Jobs and Small Business, the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Department of Social Services.

The several projects, the Partnership will work across sectors to improve disability employment and return to work rates for people experiencing work incapacity through illness and injury.

“The Partnership is the first real attempt to work across multiple benefit systems to deliver positive change,” said Comcare CEO Jennifer Taylor during the launch held at the Insurance Council of Australia’s 2018 Annual Forum in Sydney.

“We need to break down the siloes the support systems operate in. At the same time, we have to help businesses reduce barriers to employment, help GPs prescribe work as part of recovery, and give employees a better understanding of the importance of good work to their health and wellbeing.

“There is a growing realization that what happens in one support system impacts others, and the costs often just shift between systems. There is also increasing recognition of the potential for a combined approach to more effectively influence employers, GPs and employees to achieve better health and work outcomes.

“Return to work rates have stagnated nationally and, despite sustained efforts, work participation rates for people with disability have not improved. It’s time for a new approach.”

The Partnership identified four priority areas and work is underway on projects looking at data and services, employer and employee attitudes and developing consistent supports for GPs. These priority areas are Cross-sector, employer mobilisation, employee awareness, and GP support.

Comcare says a key driver of the national initiative is the growing body of research showing that employment generates positive health benefits for individuals and the community, while long-term unemployment can have a negative impact on health and wellbeing.

“Comcare established the Collaborative Partnership because we saw real opportunities to improve productivity nationally by focusing on the tangible links between work and health. This Partnership has the potential to deliver positive, system-wide changes that drive better health and work outcomes for many working-age Australians. Increasing work capacity nationally is not something any government or organisation can solve alone – we can only deliver sustainable change by working together,” said Ms. Taylor.

More information about the Partnership is available on http://www.comcare.gov.au/collaborativepartnership

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