Vocational Rehabilitation Provision in Ireland
Vocational rehabilitation is the process that enables individuals to overcome the barriers they face when accessing, remaining or returning to work following injury, illness or impairment. Our ‘NDA policy advice paper on vocational rehabilitation provision in Ireland’ is based on a review of evidence and identifies the gaps that exist in the Irish system and provides advice on the development of a pathway to retaining employment or returning to work for those who have acquired a disability or long-term health condition during their working life.
Our advice paper was originally published in draft format in 2020, pending a consultation with persons with acquired disabilities or conditions. This consultation took place in early 2021. It involved an online survey of 115 people followed by six case study interviews.
The findings from this consultation have been incorporated into the final advice paper linked above, and reinforce the argument that there needs to be a coherent national programme of vocational rehabilitation in place in Ireland. People reported mixed success in returning to work and many received very few supports.
Findings from this consultation were also published in a separate report 'Experiences of Support for Return to Work among people with Acquired Disabilities or Conditions'.
International Good Practice in Vocational Rehabilitation: Lessons for Ireland
We commissioned and funded the Work Research Centre to conduct research on international good practice in Vocational Rehabilitation. This work contributed to the fourth strategic priority of the Comprehensive Employment Strategy for People with Disabilities which is 'To promote job retention and re-entry into work'.
The main characteristic shared by people with disabilities across the countries examined is that their disabling conditions have resulted in reduced work capacity and they require specialist interventions and supports to access, maintain or return to employment.
Exploring the Impact of Fatigue on Work Ability of People with Rheumatic Disease
About a third of sick absences from work arise due to musculoskeletal conditions of which different forms of arthritis or rheumatic disease are among the most common. This study, funded under the NDA's Research Promotion Scheme, focused in on the influence of fatigue associated with these conditions on the ability to work. The research was conducted by the discipline of Occupational Therapy, Trinity College Dublin. The study included a survey of about 300 people, most of whom who were currently working, as well as semi-structured interviews and focus groups.
Key findings were:
- Fatigue is a pervasive symptom in employed individuals with rheumatic disease
- Physical demands of work, and fitting in with work schedules were the two reported areas of greatest difficulty, and higher fatigue levels meant greater difficulties
- A significant number of respondents had another concurrent condition
- Younger workers tended to experience more difficulties related to fatigue
- Employers tended to have little awareness of the fatigue issue
An article based on this research was published by the authors in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
Exploring the Factors Related to Return to Work after Stroke
Research on factors associated with return to work after stroke was conducted by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, funded under the NDA's Research Promotion Scheme. This research included a literature review, a national survey of stroke survivors as well as focus groups and semi structured interviews.
The main findings were that
- The most common problems limiting ability to work were mental fatigue (84%), physical fatigue (78%) and difficulties thinking (78%)
- A multidisciplinary approach to assisting people who have experienced stroke return to work is important
- Communication between healthcare professionals and employers is essential
- Gradual phased return to work was found as important in facilitating successful transition back to work