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Research reveals the scale of health-related work incapacity (Media release)

30 April 2018

New research estimates the scale and cost of health-related work incapacity in Australia and considers a fresh approach to improving it.

The research, released today, is the first examination of all the 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.

Driven by an innovative public-private sector partnership, the research identifies opportunities to improve health and productivity outcomes by better aligning benefit systems through a national collaborative effort.

The study by Monash University researchers 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 federal workers’ compensation insurer and work health and safety regulator Comcare.

Comcare CEO Jennifer Taylor said researchers considered data and services across the systems that support people to work – workers’ compensation, social security, veterans’ compensation, superannuation, life insurance and motor accident compensation.

“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,” Ms Taylor said.

“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 Cross Sector Project: Mapping Australian Systems of Income Support for People with Health-Related Work Incapacity was produced by Monash University’s Insurance Work and Health group, led by Professor Alex Collie.

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

Researchers 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 greater understanding of the systems of income support. There are also opportunities for better aligning service models, particularly 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 working towards addressing the opportunities for change. Members are already examining ways to improve data sharing between the various compensation and benefit systems to get a better understanding of how they interact and how they can work together more effectively.

“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,” Ms Taylor said.

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

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

Members include the Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the Commonwealth Departments of Social Services and Jobs and Small Business, the Insurance Council of Australia, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, insurer EML and experts Lucy Brogden, Chair of the National Mental Health Commission, and Professor Niki Ellis.

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.

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

Media Contact:
0478 305 675

Page last reviewed: 15 December 2019
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Date printed 29 Jun 2022