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New service helps people back to work

Waikato District Health Board has teamed up with the Ministry of Social Development and Auckland University to trial an innovative new service that helps the long term unemployed overcome their health issues and return to work.

The programme, called REACH (Realising Employment through Active Co-ordinated Healthcare), is supporting clients to manage their health condition or disability so they can find suitable work. This gives them confidence and independence and improves their wellbeing.

Already the programme is having a beneficial effect on some of the early referrals. Derek (not his real name) had been out of work for a number of years. A smoker, he was really struggling with his health and was sleeping erratically.

The REACH team were able to support him get into a regular sleeping pattern, provided support and education pre and post hospital stay for minor surgery, and worked on his CV with him. He’s now got a job as an electrical technician, is a regular at his local gym, has quit smoking and started driving lessons.

Barbara Garbutt, Director of Older Persons and Rehabilitation and Allied Health for the DHB, said: “Having a job isn’t just about money, work gives people confidence and independence. Research shows that working is good for people’s health and wellbeing and that long term unemployment is detrimental to them and their families.

“Many people on a benefit have a health condition or disability and long term unemployment can cause isolation and feelings of worthlessness.  Getting people back to work gives them a sense of achievement which is emotionally rewarding and fulfilling. Working more intensively with clients with health conditions and disabilities to get them into suitable work can really improve their lives and is a good investment for the government.”

The Waikato DHB staff, in partnership with an MSD case manager, work with their local GP and other agencies in the client’s life to help solve problems and use cognitive behavioural therapy to clear blocks that could be getting in the way of them being independent. They also help establish healthy behaviour and an activity plan that helps them prepare for a return to work if possible.

Clients invited to join the programme by their MSD case manager, will have been receiving a health condition or disability-related benefit for between six months and three years.

An initial prototype for up to 30 clients in the Dinsdale and Raglan areas started in May and is being expanded into a trial from the end of October starting with four service centres around Hamilton.

Another client who has been able to be helped is Tamati (not his real name), a 39 year old man who had a 13 year prison history and a chronic health condition due to being overweight, drinking heavily and not managing his medication correctly. He had become anxious and depressed and didn’t want to leave the house.

The REACH team worked with him and his GP to help him understand how to manage his medication, educate him around eating healthily and support him attending a specialist appointment at the hospital. He is now getting out the house for regular walks, feeling more positive and is putting together his CV.

There are approximately 4,500 clients in the Waikato region who are unable to work due to a health condition. Ms Garbutt said the prototype areas had been chosen because they were areas of social deprivation. The University of Auckland are analysing data from MSD, Public Health, Housing, ACC, Justice and Corrections to identify at risk populations who are struggling, where an intervention could really help improve their health and social outcomes.

Associate Deputy Chief Executive of Service Delivery, Marama Edwards from MSD, says the REACH initiative is one of six partnership projects MSD has across four District Health Boards.

“The Ministry is changing the way it works, and REACH is one way we can give people greater choice and control over the support they receive and the lives they lead.

“It’s great to be working with DHBs in their communities to support and deliver tailored services to people wanting to find meaningful and sustainable work. It’s about connecting with people on their own terms and helping them reach their goals.

“Opening up employment opportunities is good for people’s health and wellbeing and allows them to actively participate in society and their communities.”

Read the Government’s full release:  $9m trials to support people into work

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