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Employment pathway now available province-wide

Monday, 28 April 2008

Following a successful pilot period, the Pathways to Work programme is now available across Northern Ireland.

This interdepartmental initiative is designed to help people with health conditions or disabilities move closer to the labour market or employment.

Employment Minister Sir Reg Empey heralded the pilot period of Pathways to Work as a success and spoke of its potential to transform the lives of people who have become dependent on welfare. He said: “For most people, the best route out of poverty and social exclusion is through work. Pathways to Work will help to provide the support that will assist many who have manageable health conditions and disabilities, to move into employment and away from welfare dependency.

“Since October 2005 we have trialled the programme across Northern Ireland. During this period over 14,000 people signed up to Pathways and over 1,300 have moved into work. This has demonstrated the potential the programme has to improve the lives of many people and their families and this in turn will benefit society and the economy as a whole.”

The Pathways to Work initiative is delivered jointly by the Department for Employment and Learning, the Social Security Agency within the Department for Social Development and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

Speaking today, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey MLA said:

“I am glad that Pathways to Work is now available throughout Northern Ireland. My department has been closely involved in developing one of the key components of the Pathways to Work initiative – ‘The Condition Management Programme’. This programme, as its name suggests, is designed to help people with mild to moderate health conditions or disabilities better understand their condition and to develop strategies for managing that condition in the context of work.”

Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie MLA also welcomed the fact that Pathways to Work is available province wide. She said:

“I have been impressed by the ability of the staff in three different departments with very different and wide-ranging responsibilities to work together to deliver this important initiative. Along with my colleagues in the NI Executive, I am determined to reduce poverty and social exclusion. Helping people to become economically independent is one of the best ways to achieve this.”

Notes to Editors:

1. Pathways to Work is designed to help people with health problems or disabilities into work. It provides a comprehensive framework of practical and financial help and support to people with health and disability related barriers to employment.

2. In Northern Ireland there are over 114,000 people receiving Incapacity Benefits. This represents 10.7% of the working age population. Unfortunately evidence shows that after six months on the benefit the chances of a return to work decline by 50% and after a year on the benefit those chances decline by 75%. Pathways to Work aims to provide the support necessary to improve the prospects of a return to work.

3. The new service has been available in parts of Northern Ireland since 3 October 2005. From today it is available province-wide with the expansion of the service to Co Down and parts of Co Armagh.

4. The Pathways process includes faster Incapacity Benefit claims processing to allow claimants to then concentrate on the work-focused elements of the service which are delivered by specially trained personal advisers. These are -

  • a better framework of work-focused interviews for all new claimants (up to six rather than current practice which is one only);
  • improved referrals to Disablement Employment Programmes;
  • new work-focused rehabilitation programmes in conjunction with DHSSPS;
  • clearer incentives to try work, including a Return to Work Credit of £40 a week for 52 weeks for people earning less than £15,000 a year; and
  • better support for those moving off incapacity benefits onto JSA.

5. Although the series of interviews is mandatory, the Pathways Personal Adviser has the discretion to waive or defer them if appropriate. All the choices on offer are entirely voluntary and clients are not put under pressure to participate in any of the options or forced into work.

6. Media queries to the Department for Employment and Learning Press Office on 028 9025 7872.

7. Out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699715440 and your call will be returned.