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Partnership takes a national approach to work participation (Media release)

07 March 2018

A unique initiative is driving new approaches to improving participation for Australians with health conditions that affect their ability to work.

The Collaborative Partnership to improve work participation, established by Comcare and launched today, is focused on aligning the various sectors of Australia’s work disability system to deliver better outcomes for people with temporary or permanent physical or mental health conditions.

The Partnership 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.

Through a range of projects, the Partnership is working across sectors including workers’ compensation, life insurance, superannuation, disability support and employment services to improve disability employment and return to work rates for people experiencing work incapacity through illness and injury.

Speaking at the launch, held at the Insurance Council of Australia’s 2018 Annual Forum in Sydney, Comcare CEO Jennifer Taylor said too many people with health conditions struggle to find work, recover at work or return to work.

“The Partnership is the first real attempt to work across multiple benefit systems to deliver positive change,” Ms Taylor said.

“We need to break down the silos 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 realisation that what happens in one support system impacts others, and the costs often just shift between the 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.”

Collaborative Partnership foundation member, ICA CEO Rob Whelan, said: “Australia has a complex and fragmented approached to supporting people with illness and injury to participate in the workforce and obtain meaningful employment.

“One of the aims of this partnership is to simplify the experience for people who, depending upon their specific circumstances, are currently dealing with multiple state and commonwealth schemes and service providers administered by public or private sector organisations.

“The Insurance Council is proud to be a founding member. The general insurance industry sees this initiative as a positive and powerful partnership that will focus the expertise, research and resources to develop real solutions and positive outcomes for employees, employers and the broader economy.”

The Partnership has identified priority areas and work is underway on projects looking at data and services, employer and employee attitudes and developing consistent supports for GPs:

Cross-sector— examining data and services across compensation and benefit systems, identifying the flow of people through systems and finding opportunities to improve services. Led by the Department of Social Services.

Employer mobilisation— examining attitudes and barriers and improving employers’ capacity to provide work opportunities for people with temporary or permanent physical or mental health conditions. Led by the Department of Jobs and Small Business.

Employee awareness— improving employees’ understanding of the health benefits of good work and promoting their role in using work as part of their recovery. Led by EML.

GP support— developing nationally consistent approaches that will help GPs use work as part of recovery, including focussing on capacity for work. Led by AFOEM.

A key driver of the national initiative is the growing body of research that shows employment generates positive health benefits for individuals and the community, while long-term unemployment can have a negative impact on health and wellbeing. This forms the basis of AFOEM’s Health Benefits of Good Work initiative to promote work as an integral part of recovery.

Mr Whelan called on public and private sector stakeholders with an interest in improving the health and wellbeing of fellow Australians to join the partnership.

“This is an opportunity for organisations, industry groups and sectors that support improved work participation to connect and work with like-minded businesses to help achieve positive outcomes for Australians seeking good work; to be seen as a leader in work participation; and to benefit from the experience of other sectors,” Mr Whelan said.

More information about the Collaborative Partnership – including how to get involved - is available at www.comcare.gov.au/collaborativepartnership.

Quotes attributable to Collaborative Partnership participants:

Jennifer Taylor, CEO, Comcare:
“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.”

Rob Whelan, CEO, Insurance Council of Australia:
“The Insurance Council is proud to be a founding member. The general insurance industry sees this initiative as a positive and powerful partnership that will focus the expertise, research and resources to develop real solutions and positive outcomes for employees, employers and the broader economy.”

Dr Robin Chase, Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine:
“The Health Benefits of Good Work has been the principal policy focus of the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Royal Australasian College of Physicians, for nearly 10 years. It has changed the way that we view work and has the promise of sustainably and economically improving the health of Australian and New Zealand populations. But medical practitioners cannot achieve this alone; we must work with the medical profession, governments, business and unions. The Collaborative Partnership has a key role in promoting that message across all of these groups and I am proud to be involved in this wonderful and ground breaking initiative.”

Mark Coyne, CEO, EML:
“As a national provider of personal injury claims management services, we have seen first-hand the detrimental effect that long-term unemployment or absence from work has on the health and wellbeing of people. EML committed to the Collaborative Partnership with the intent of sharing our insights and experience gained from more than 100 years in helping people; who through injury, illness or disability need specialist help to improve their capacity to return to work. The Partnership will demonstrate the powerful combination that evidence based research and expert collaboration can have in harmonising and improving approaches to key issues. I am confident that working together, the outcomes delivered will address the barriers many Australians face in their journey to achieve their personal health and work goals.”

Serena Wilson, Deputy Secretary, Department of Social Services:
“The Department of Social Services sees the Collaborative Partnership as an opportunity to really explore the data to understand the patterns of impacts of different disability and the efficacy of our interventions. This will ensure our policies and services continue to respond to need across people’s lives, to encourage independence and participation and support a cohesive society.”

Media contact:
0478 305 675

Page last reviewed: 15 December 2019
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Date printed 27 Nov 2020