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Opportunities for Sickness and Invalid's

12 May 2005

Budget 2005:

Opportunities for Sickness and Invalid's beneficiaries

$27.7 million will be invested over the next four years to help more Sickness and Invalid's beneficiaries move into work, Social Development and Employment Minister Steve Maharey announced today.

The funding will allow for a major expansion of the new service for Sickness and Invalid's Benefit recipients that has already helped thousands of people move into work.

"We've already seen a 13 per cent increase in the number of people leaving Sickness and Invalid's Benefits since the Service pilots began," Steve Maharey said. "It's clear that many people on Sickness and Invalids Benefits want to work, but need support to manage their medical conditions while preparing for jobs."

"While we understand the reasons for growth in numbers on these benefits, we believe that with this strong investment in support and incentives we can reverse this trend," Steve Maharey said.

Growth in sickness and invalids benefit numbers has occurred in most OECD countries over the last three decades as a result of ageing populations, increased diagnosis of mental health conditions and community-based treatment of people with mental illnesses.

The funding will allow for: Improved work assessments to prepare 2,500 people for a long-term return to work Increased support for disabled job seekers and their employers A 76 per cent increase in payments to designated doctors for GPs and psychologists and a 62 per cent increase for specialists (designated doctors are responsible for assessing an individual's eligibility for the Invalid's Benefit) The nationwide roll-out of a second-opinion programme to help doctors better assess Sickness Benefit eligibility

Today's funding announcement is in addition to funds announced in January, bringing the total investment in the new service to $127.8 million over four years (see attached for details).

Steve Maharey made the announcement at the launch of Providing Access to Health Solutions (PATHS) in Tauranga. PATHS is a key part of the New Service and involves a partnership between Work and Income and District Health Boards.

PATHS programmes are now up and running in Manukau, Wellington and Western Bay of Plenty. Clients participating in PATHS receive a range of employment and health services to help overcome the barriers that prevent them from returning to work.

ENDS

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