Select Committee on Work and Pensions Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Institute of Directors


  This is the response of the Institute of Directors (IoD) to the Committee's inquiry into some aspects of the reform of incapacity benefits and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Pathways to Work pilots (Committee Press Notice number 1 of session 2005-06, dated 21 July 2005).

  The IoD is an individual membership organisation made up of some 53,000 directors of business and other important organisations worldwide, mainly in the United Kingdom. Members of the IoD are drawn from all sectors, and functions within organisations.


Involvement of healthcare professionals

  It seems that much of the present system is based too much around the DWP itself. For example, the assessment for eligibility for receipt of incapacity benefit seems to be mainly an administrative procedure: is the person fit to go to work?—yes or no. Rather, it could be made to focus more on assisting recovery or return to work, or both. So the occupational health physician working on behalf of the DWP might then be in the position of being able to refer the person elsewhere [eg to the National Health Service (NHS), independent healthcare, social services or other relevant agency] at the time of the assessment, in addition to doing a report for the DWP. This could in principle start the road to recovery for many people sooner instead of later or indeed never, as can happen under current procedures. It would mean that the clinicians engaged on behalf of the DWP work more closely with their colleagues in other organisations.

Existing employment initiatives

  At present some employing organisations feel that they are being expected to act unsupported in situations of long-term or recurrent sickness or sequelae of injury. One factor for employers is that there may be more than one source of advice. NHS Plus exists. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will be shortly starting some occupational health pilots, Workplace Health Direct. Whereas the HSE's intentions seem welcome at this stage (especially with the intention to aim at small and medium-sized enterprises) there should be caution about setting up too many and potentially duplicating public agencies in this area. There may be the potential to engage more with primary healthcare, depending on the Government's plans for this—eg the Department of Health's forthcoming White Paper on primary care.

The role of the private and voluntary sectors

  It is important to try to engage a wide range of bodies that may be able to help. There is no monopoly of best practice in the public, private or third sector in this regard: all may prove of value across the range of needs. Occupational health providers' expertise needs to be engaged from a diversity of sources.

Geraint Day

16 November 2005

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