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Government announces response on the Work, Health and Disability Green Paper

Published on 30 November 2017

Carpenter with two apprenticesOn 30 November 2017 the Government announced its plans to support people with disability and long term health conditions to be in work. It pledged to see 1 million more disabled people in work over the next ten years. Proposals for change focused on three key areas: the welfare system; workplaces and the healthcare system.

We know that work matters to many people with arthritis, helping them remain independent, giving a sense of control, and improving quality of life.

This time last year, the Government acknowledged that things needed to improve. To start this process they said they wanted to hear opinions on how people with long term conditions or disabilities could be supported to stay healthy and remain in work. Their consultation was called Improving lives: the work, health and disability green paper.

269 of you shared your story for inclusion in our policy team’s response to this consultation, where we set out specific recommendations for improvements that should be made, including:

  • Investing more in, and promoting, the Access to Work scheme
  • Improving the support people with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions receive when they’re out of work or trying to find work. This could include ensuring work coaches and disability employment advisors receive training about musculoskeletal conditions, so they can properly support people with arthritis.

Thank you

On top of this, over 300 of you sent an email to your MP, highlighting the impact of arthritis and asking them to call on the Government to improve the system. Thanks so much to everyone who got involved, adding your voice made our recommendations much more powerful.

After months of waiting, the Government has now published its response to the Green Paper. There are certainly some positive parts including:

  • Recognition that musculoskeletal conditions, along with mental health conditions, are the most common conditions that affect people’s ability to work. A commitment to ensure services work for people with these conditions is a key part of the Government’s programme.
  • Recognition of the need for more consistent musculoskeletal services across the country, including preventative services and support for self-management.
  • Building on the commitment to identify opportunities for routine data collection about musculoskeletal services and outcomes. So the Government can determine how well things are going, and where improvements need to be made.
  • Commissioning of research to investigate musculoskeletal healthcare provision for working age people across the NHS.
  • Improvements in the Access to Work Scheme.

Long-term improvements

Two initiatives were announced to support improvements in the long-term:

  • A new National Institute for Health Research Working-Age Policy Research Unit
  • A Work and Health Challenge Fund to identify new approaches to tackle areas where there is not enough evidence.

We believe it is essential that these new programmes have a musculoskeletal component, and we will be following up with the relevant decision makers.

However, we are disappointed that much of the content in the response that is specifically about musculoskeletal conditions is about projects that are already underway. An opportunity has been missed to set out a wider range of proposals.

With our estimate suggesting the employment rate amongst people with arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions is 20% lower than amongst people with no condition or disability, around 600,000 people with arthritis are currently missing out on the opportunity to work. The green paper could have gone further to changing this, but it hasn’t.

Our Policy Manager, Dr Laura Boothman said: “The response was an opportunity to clearly set out a programme of better support, across health and employment services, for people with musculoskeletal conditions who want to be in work. Whilst we agree there is an urgent need to collate and build the evidence base around what works, there are also steps that could be taken now that would make a difference.”

We will continue to campaign for improvement, and ensure that any areas of concern for people with arthritis are raised with decision makers and addressed.

Back to Arthritis Research UK press releases

Government announces proposals for social care

Social care worker with a lady

On 16 November 2017, the Government announced that it will publish a green paper on social care and support by summer 2018. We welcome this but are concerned by some of the details.

Help us improve the care people with arthritis receive

Nurse visiting an elderly lady

As part of the Care and Support Alliance we are calling on the Government to publish a consultation looking at ways to improve the social care system for all those who rely on it.

Working with arthritis and joint pain

work laptop and hands

Having arthritis may pose some challenges in work, but your employer, Government programmes and other organisations can all provide support. There are also things you can do yourself to help make working life easier.

Take our working with arthritis survey

Woman engineer in a hard hat and high visability coat

Help us continue our campaigning for better support for people with arthritis in the workplace by taking our survey on working with arthritis today.

For more information, go to
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