Waikato trial getting beneficiaries back on their feet, into work

Waikato DHB chief executive Nigel Murray said being in employment is good for people's health.
CHRISTEL YARDLEY/FAIRFAX NZ

Waikato DHB chief executive Nigel Murray said being in employment is good for people's health.

​A health initiative aimed at getting the long-term unemployed back into work is being expanded in Hamilton.

Waikato DHB members were briefed on the scheme which focuses on helping beneficiaries overcome health issues and return to work.

The pilot scheme, which is a collaboration between the health board, the Social Development Ministry and Auckland University, was launched in May with 30 clients in Raglan and Hamilton's Dinsdale area.

The initiative has since been expanded in Hamilton as a trial.

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Waikato DHB chief executive Nigel Murray said the project, dubbed REACH (Realising Employment through Active Co-ordinated Healthcare), was an exciting initiative.

"It's a fantastic opportunity to see people who have fallen on very hard times, are unemployed, have a mental health, slash corrections, slash other social issues, getting off benefits and into employment," Murray said.

"One of the strongest indicators of health is employment, both in mental health and any other form of health."

Waikato DHB staff, together with a Social Development Ministry case manager, work with a client's doctor and other agencies to help solve obstacles to them getting back into employment.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is also used to clear blocks that could get in the way of a person becoming independent.

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Staff also work with clients to create healthy behaviour and an activity plan.

Board member Andrew Buckley said it was disappointing such a health need had to be addressed through a specially funded programme when in fact it should be part of "business as usual".

Buckley said the initiative also raised questions around the issue of inequity, with those who would benefit from being on the scheme, but not selected to be part of it, at a disadvantage.

Waikato DHB chairman Bob Simcock said the issue of inequity came into play whenever a group was selected for a new trial or project or technique.

Those invited to be part of the programme have received a health condition or disability-related benefit for between six months and three years.

Board member Martin Gallagher said the initiative was making a life-changing difference.

"We all know the benefits go beyond the individual," Gallagher said.

Barbara Garbutt, director of the DHB's older persons and rehabilitation and allied health, said having a job wasn't just about money.

Employment gave people confidence and independence.

Research showed working is good for people's health and wellbeing, whereas long term unemployment was detrimental to individuals and their families,

There are about 4500 people in the Waikato who are unable to work due to health conditions.

 - Stuff

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