Evaluation of the Fit for Work Service pilots

First year report

Hillage J, et al | Research Report 792 | Department for Work and Pensions | Mar 2012

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Following Dame Carol Black’s 2008 review of the health of Britain’s working age population, a new Fit for Work Service (FFWS) was proposed, to offer support for people in the early stages of sickness absence, particularly for employees working in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

It was envisaged that case-managed and multidisciplinary services would provide personalised help to address both social concerns, such as financial and housing issues, and clinical needs, and as a consequence would keep people in work.

Between April and June 2010, FFWS pilots were launched in 11 areas throughout Great Britain with the intention of testing different approaches to providing the service, and getting people back to work as quickly as possible. Pilots were formed by partnerships of health, employment and local community organisations, and offered biopsychosocial assessments of need and case-managed support to aid a quick return to work.

From April 2011, seven of the pilots were funded for up to a further two years.

In September 2010, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), with the Department of Health (DH), commissioned a consortium involving the Institute for Employment Studies (IES), the Fit for Work Research Group at Liverpool University, the Social Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of York, the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR), and GfK NOP, to evaluate the pilots.

This report presents the findings from the first year of the evaluation and is based on:

  • management information (MI) collected in each pilot in aggregate form across a number of core indicators;
  • over 200 interviews with stakeholders, providers and others involved in the delivery of services in each pilot;
  • the first wave of a two-wave telephone survey of over 300 FFWS clients;
  • interviews with a panel of 64 FFWS clients drawn from four pilot areas;
  • interviews with 30 GPs across all pilots including those who had referred patients to the FFWS and those who had not.

The report primarily focuses on the first year of operation across all 11 pilots but, where relevant, identifies the main changes that have occurred in the first few months of the second year.