The number of people on long-term disability benefits in Europe is rising and
this group is particularly at risk of social exclusion. Although many of those
away from work for a long period due to illness or injury would like to rejoin
the workforce, very few actually do so in practice. This situation means that
potential workers are absent from the labour market and there is pressure on
social security systems.
If economic growth is to be maintained and the growing pressure on social
security systems eased, Europe needs to increase its rates of employment. A
downward pressure on employment figures is being exerted, in part, by the
growing numbers of older people as Europe's demographic profile ages. However,
another process is removing people from the labour market: the rising numbers
of people on long-term sickness and disability benefits seen across Member
States in recent years. Moreover, these numbers are likely to increase as the
traditional option of early retirement schemes for older workers is
progressively closed off.
Many people who are on long-term disability benefits want to work: in the UK,
for example, it has been estimated that about 40% of people on long-term
sickness benefits would like to return to work. The statistics, unfortunately,
indicate that not many actually do. Both the broader European policy objectives
and individual citizens would benefit from strategies that enable more people
on long-term benefits to return to the workplace. Currently, however,
constructing such strategies is hampered by the fact that not enough is known
about what works, for which groups and over which timescales.
A new report, published by the European Foundation for the Improvement of
Living and Working Conditions, examines the practice of one of the key factors
in helping benefits recipients return to work: employment guidance and
counselling services. In addressing an issue often absent from political
discourse the situation of people who are on long-term absence from work due
to illness or injury it is hoped that the findings will contribute to a
better understanding of the processes that keep individuals out of the
workforce, and so assist in reversing a growing trend.
One of the key strategies for reversing this trend and helping long-term
benefit claimants to return to work is a system of effective employment
guidance and counselling services. By looking at case studies in 10 Member
States, this report identifies examples of good practice in employment services
for people who have become disability claimants in the course of their working
lives. It concludes that there is overall a lack of awareness of the specific
needs of people on longterm disability benefits and a need for a wider range of
initiatives specially targeted at this group.
AplusA-online.de - Source: European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions