848 The role of age and health in returning to work: results from the supporting older people into employment (sopie) cohort

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IntroductionBy 2020 people aged 50 years and over will make up almost half of the adult population in the UK. Policy aims to enable more people to work for longer however there is a dramatic drop in labour participation after age 50. Our aim was to investigate the impact of age, and health on return to work (RTW) in welfare benefit claimants engaging with the Work Programme (WP); the UK Government’s main RTW initiative. It supports two main groups of claimants for two years – Job Seeker Allowance (JSA), for people who are unemployed but capable of work; Employment Support Allowance (ESA), for people with a disability that makes it more difficult to work.MethodsThe data were from the SOPIE cohort (13 461 unemployed clients aged 18–64, who entered the WP in Scotland in 2013/2014). Data were analysed using STATA 14 and a Poisson modelling approach using fractional polynomials to model age as a continuous variable.ResultsClients aged 50 and over accounted for 15% of JSA and 30% ESA groups. The proportion of clients disclosing health conditions (HC) were: ‘JSA under-50’, 25%; ‘JSA over-50’, 53%; ‘ESA under-50’, 97%; ’ESA over-50’, 98%. Multiple HC were more common in ESA clients. Job start rates for clients were: ‘JSA under-50’, 65%; ‘JSA over-50’, 49%; ‘ESA under-50’, 23%; ’ESA over-50’, 14%. There was a strong relationship between age, health and job start with the predicted probability of job start highest in the first three months of the WP. The analyses also investigated the influence of biopsychosocial factors on RTW.ConclusionThis study is on-going and will inform interventions focussing on addressing age-specific, health and biopsychosocial barriers for future RTW programmes with the aim of improving employment outcomes, so that not only individuals but employers and the economy can benefit from extending working lives.

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