An initiative helping unemployed people overcome their challenging health issues and return to work is going from strength to strength a year after it was launched as a pilot programme.
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.
An initial prototype for up to 30 clients in the Dinsdale and Raglan areas started in May last year and has now expanded into other areas of Hamilton, Te Awamutu, Cambridge, Matamata, Huntly, Waihi and Thames.
There are approximately 4,500 clients in the Waikato region who are temporarily unable to work due to a health condition.
Clients invited to join the voluntary programme by their MSD case manager, will have been receiving a health or disability-related benefit for between six months and three years.
The Waikato DHB staff, in partnership with the 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.
The REACH programme has been increasing the number of clients it is helping over the last year. So far it has engaged with 61 clients, with eight of those getting a job and back into employment and three being helped into a training course to help them get back to work.
One woman, Sue (not her real name) has just got her dream job with a pet store after overcoming major health issues. The 33-year-old was on a health related benefit, had been sufferieng from stress and was unable to get a job as she could only cope with working 15 hours a week. The REACH team helped with her anxiety management and her joint pain and a living well coach assisted Sue to prepare her CV and provided interview training. After finding work experience Sue was able to secure a full time job with a pet store and is delighted she found something so quickly.
Another client, Dave (not his real name) had been out of work for three years. Suffering from diabetes, the 50-year-old’s self confidence was at rock bottom and his health was getting worse. The REACH team were able to help with diet and exercise to improve his health, get him IT training and assist with his CV and job applications. Dave has had some good responses and a couple of interviews and can see light at the end of the tunnel.
Fiona Stephens the REACH team leader with the Waikato District Heath Board explained: “People who are out of work for a long time with physical health issues often find it affects their mental wellbeing, they get stuck in a rut and can’t see a way out. It’s a downward spiral. For our team being able to help these people find a job and improve not only their physical health but also give them hope and a sense of purpose is incredibly rewarding. Our clients are so appreciative of what we do as often they’ve tried many different approaches in the past which haven’t worked. But if they are prepared to commit to our 12 week programme, we can make a big difference to their lives.”
The REACH team recently received a thank you letter from the Department of Corrections after they helped an offender who was recently released from prison, get his life back on track and find employment.
Barbara Garbutt, Director of Older Persons, Rehabilitation and Allied Health for the DHB, added: “This programme is a great example of a cross agency approach – instead of working in isolation with clients, agencies like MSD, Corrections, the DHB and the patient’s GP all work together to support them. This reduces the impact of long term unemployment on everyone and is a great example of social investment in practice.”
MSD Waikato Regional Commissioner Te Rehia Papesh, said: “REACH continues to go from strength to strength. It shows the benefits of a cross-agency approach and provides a greater understanding of the work we all do for our mutual clients. It has also helped our MSD Case Managers better understand the health arena and support our clients in their health, and eventually employment, journey.”