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Negative social attitudes towards young people with chronic conditions leaves seven out of ten feeling vulnerable to job loss

13 November 2013


Seven out of ten (72%) young people with chronic health conditions felt at risk of unemployment during the recession, while 97% attend work when ill due to fear of job loss. This is according to a report by Fit for Work UK, written by The Work Foundation, and  published today (13  November). The findings reveal that negative social attitudes towards chronic conditions, in schools and amongst employers, are leaving many young people at risk of low earnings and exclusion from the labour market.

Recent studies indicate that unemployment is almost twice as high amongst  young people with chronic conditions than that of their peers (24% of 16-24  year olds with a work-limiting disability are unemployed, compared to 14% of those without a disability). Today’s report, Life and employment opportunities of young people with chronic conditions, captures the scale of the obstacles young people face and makes a series of practical recommendations to schools, employers, policy makers and clinicians.

In a foreword to the report, Dame Carol Black, Co-President of the Fit for Work Coalition, said: “This report takes a look at this challenge at a time when youth unemployment in the UK is at worryingly high levels. It captures very well the scale of the obstacles faced by young people with long-term, chronic or fluctuating conditions as they seek to make the transition from education and employment – and then to develop and thrive in the workplace.”

Kate Summers, co-report author, said: “Youth unemployment can cause serious psychological scarring and our research shows that problems often begin for young people with a chronic condition before entering a first job. We know from our findings that stigma towards people with chronic conditions can also result in self-stigma. Almost 93% of those surveyed indicated that the condition affected their confidence.

“We are calling on the Department of Education to provide improved education to young people about chronic conditions in order to reduce stigma. Healthcare professionals need to be incentivised to consider work as an outcome of successful treatment and employers should play a greater role in shaping the skills of young people, as well as identifying and establishing workplace adjustments.”

Further results from the survey revealed that:

·         68% believed their chronic condition affected their job satisfaction

·         61% said their condition stopped them reaching their full potential at work

·         57% said their chronic condition affected their career progression

·         57% said their condition had prevented them from pursuing their preferred career

·         50% said their condition prevented them from looking for a different job

·         29% had difficulty remaining employed

·         27% thought their chronic condition inhibited access to training and development

The report was previewed last week at the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society Health Champion Awards attended by Linda Riordan MP and Home Secretary, Theresa May MP, and Members of Parliament.


Notes to editors

1.   Professor Stephen Bevan and members of the Fit for Work Coalition are available for interviews, comment and briefings.

2.   The full report, Life and employment opportunities of young people with chronic conditions by Stephen Bevan, Ksenia Zheltoukhova, Kate Summers, Zofia Bajorek, Lisa O’Dea and Jenny Gulliford can be obtained from The Work Foundation press office in advance or downloaded from from 00.01hrs on 13 November 2013. 

3.    The sample size of young people with chronic conditions aged 18-25 years comprised of 247 responses acquired from an online questionnaire of individuals in patient groups and 16 face- to-face interviews.

4.    Fit for Work UK is a partnership of individuals and organisations, including The Work Foundation, Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance, British Telecom, Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, National Ankylosing Spondylitis Society, National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society and the Royal College of General Practitioners. The Fit for Work UK Coalition is supported by a grant from AbbVie.

5.    The Work Foundation aims to be the leading independent, international authority on work and its future, influencing policy and practice for the benefit of society. The Work Foundation is part of Lancaster University - an alliance that enables both organisations to further enhance their impact




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