Understanding the association between worklessness and poor health is important from a broad range of perspectives. And by developing services that can impact on both agendas should result in several positive outcomes, if developed sensitively and appropriately.
The most significant of these benefits is the increased life chances for the person struggling with either poor health or unemployment. However, there are other potential benefits: an increase in economic activity would free up resources in the health system, cut the benefits bill and, most importantly, build a healthier nation.
In July 2009 HM Partnerships, on behalf of the Cheshire and Merseyside and NW Health Trainer Partnerships conduced a review examining the potential relationships between employment support agencies such as Job Centre Plus and Health Trainer Services.
As part of the next phase of this project, a number of pilot sites were identified within Cheshire, Merseyside, and Cumbria. A total of three sites were found; Sefton in Merseyside, Barrow in Cumbria, and Workington also in Cumbria. These sites were chosen by the Primary Care Trusts within each area, and were identified as areas with particularly high levels of worklessness, poor health and high inequalities.
The pilot sites each appointed a Health Trainer to work specifically within the community targeting those who are unemployed and suffer poor health. Health Trainers worked within the capacity and brief set by the Department of Health, taking self referrals and generating interest in their services as with any other Health Trainer service.
Outcomes and data were collated during the 12 month project, and an independent evaluation lead analysed the data and performed some economic modelling. This identified the effectiveness of each pilot site in terms of economic change, cost-effectiveness, and monitored individuals progress via a 'distance travelled' model.
It was reported that many clients not only worked towards healthier lifestyles with the encouragement of the Health Trainers, but that some also began to undertake work related training courses. There were some cases of clients seeking voluntary positions within the community the Heath Trainers could assist with, in many cases successfully securing employment.
After engagement with the Health Trainer Service a number of clients have actively sought and secured paid employment, whilst others have secured voluntary employment and began attending training.