Imagine losing your job because of a health condition, being keen to return to work, but not having the right support to enable you to do that.

It must be a devastating situation to be in, especially if you have a family or others to support. We know that chronic pain can have a massive impact on people’s mental and socioeconomic circumstances. A recent study by Imperial College London, Arthritis Research UK and the University of Aberdeen shows that around 28 million adults in the UK are affected by some type of chronic pain (pain that lasts for more than three months).

RISE, the first study of its kind in the UK, led by the University of Warwick, will hopefully shed some light on the issue and bring us a step closer to supporting individuals suffering with chronic pain effectively, in order to improve not only their employment prospects but also their quality of life.

Serco’s employment business focuses on supporting and empowering people to secure sustainable work and progress in their careers, and to do this effectively we need to take into account any health concerns they may have. On the work programme alone, which we deliver in the West Midlands and South Yorkshire on behalf of the Department for Work & Pensions, more than 5,000 of our customers have stated they suffer from a musculoskeletal health concern or disability.

As a large employer and provider of employability programmes, we are delighted to be working with the University of Warwick on exploring new ways to help transform people’s lives. As part of the RISE study we’ll arrange for a number of people to join Serco work placements at various positions. Warwick’s team, along with clinicians and employment advisers will support these individuals and monitor their progress, using an adapted version of the individual placement support model, which is currently used in the main to support people with mental health issues return to work. Participants will gain experience relating to our employment related contracts either with Serco or some of our smaller subcontractors.

The government is placing increased emphasis on the benefits of work in improving health and well-being and the Work Programme’s replacement will be a Work and Health programme. The DWP and the Department for Health have also joined forces and created the Work and Health Unit, looking at ways of improving productivity and growth in the economy and reducing health inequalities. So we’re definitely at the right track, although there’s a lot of work still to be done. We look forward to being part of this journey.

Gareth Moss, director of employment, skills and enterprise, Serco