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TUC congress: End short-sighted austerity drive, say TUC delegates

9 September 2014 - 2:28pm

The government’s austerity programme is triggering a negative spiral in which high unemployment, low pay and long hours are driving up rates of depression and suicide, with huge costs to society.

Barbara Verrall at TUC Congress in Liverpool. Photo: Jess Hurd

Barbara Verrall: 'Good occupational health support offers the best prospect of a quick and sustainable return to work.' Photo: Jess Hurd

That was the message delivered to delegates by Barbara Verrall, CSP regional steward for north west England, who said that as a physiotherapist she saw the devastating impact austerity was having on her patients every day.

‘Sickness absence costs the UK around £15 billion annually in lost economic output, both in lost revenue and increased public spending on benefits. The most effective way of cutting these costs is by ensuring that people have free access to the health services they need when they need them.’

As an example of what she called the ‘short-sightedness’ of unnecessarily cutting expenditure, Ms Verrall  said she had treated staff from care homes who had joint and muscle problems because employers refused to pay for manual handling equipment.

While unemployment was linked to poverty, shorter life expectancy and disability, the pattern could be reversed, she said.

‘Good work is good for health. For most people, including those with long-term conditions, health can be improved by being in work.’

Ms Verrall added: ‘Employers have a very important role to play. Access to good occupational health support offers the best prospect of a quick and sustainable return to work for those affected by ill health.’

The motion, calling on TUC council to help to create models of best practice in workplace health and to continue to highlight the impact of the austerity programme, was carried unanimously.

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