New research highlights scale of health-related work incapacity

A new research reveals the scale of health-related work incapacity in Australia and considers a new approach to improving it.

The study released on Monday is the first examination of all major compensation and benefit systems to identify the flow of people through them, how the systems interact, and where they can be improved to deliver better health and productivity outcomes.

The study was conducted by researchers from Monash University and was commissioned by the Collaborative Partnership to Improve Work Participation – a public-private sector initiative that aims to deliver sustainable benefits for Australia’s working age population.

The Partnership was founded by Comcare.

“This research mapped 10 different systems of compensation and income support to identify how people flow through those systems, how the systems interact and where they can be improved,” said Comcare CEO Jennifer Taylor.

“This gives us a basis for improving Australia’s service delivery model for supporting people with work-related injury or disability in their return to work.”

The study estimated 786,000 Australians who were unable to work because of ill health, injury or disability received some form of income support from a Commonwealth, state, territory, or private source in 2015-16, totaling around $ 18 billion.

The researchers led by Professor Alex Collie, produced a conceptual map of Australia’s income support systems showing the volumes of people, the types of income support they receive and how they might move through the various systems.

Potential improvements include information and data sharing to provide a greater understanding of the systems of income support, better aligning service models, through reforming GP certification and work capacity assessment, to reduce overlap and improve service delivery.

The Collaborative Partnership is considering the report’s recommendations and is working towards addressing the opportunities for change.

“Australia’s benefit and compensation systems are siloed and operate with little reference to each other. There’s growing recognition that what happens in one system impacts others, and the costs often just shift between the systems,” said Ms. Taylor.

“Considering the sectors as a whole rather than as independent systems will lead to better understanding of how they operate in relation to each other, how they connect and where gaps or tensions exist.”

The Collaborative Partnership was established by Comcare to drive new approaches to improve participation for Australians with health conditions that limit their ability to work.

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

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