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Joined: 09/03/2009
Employment and Learning Minister, Sir Reg Empey, has pledged that his Department will continue to help those with serious illness and disability to maximise their potential in life.<

Speaking at the third Arthritis Care NI Professional Lecture, the Minister said: "My Department will continue to support people with arthritis and similar conditions to secure and retain employment. I believe that people with a disability, including arthritis, are fully entitled to enjoy the stimulation, challenge and financial benefits of employment."

The Minister highlighted the programmes and services that his Department continues to deliver to help people with arthritis and other conditions, including the Pathways to Work Advisory Service and key disability programmes such as the Condition Management Programme, Access to Work and Workable (NI).

Steve McBride, Arthritis Care Policy Advisor for Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: "Dame Carol Black's important report 'Working for a Healthier Tomorrow' has recognised both the emotional and financial cost to individuals of being unable to work. Her report estimated that sickness absence and worklessness associated with working age ill health cost over £100billion a year across the UK. It is vital that those who want to work or return to work are given every support to do so, and there are important challenges there for individuals, for employers, and for our health services. We need to look not just at how we treat people's symptoms but at how they can be supported to live the fullest possible lives."

The Minister also emphasised the need for employers to be aware of the services that will help them to employ and retain people with disability. He said: "In the current and future economic environment, it is essential that those who have the capacity to work are encouraged and prepared for employment. This will benefit not just those with a disability but also employers and the economy overall."

The Minister concluded: "I welcome the opportunity for my Department to continue to work with employers, health professionals and organisations such as Arthritis Care to promote and secure employment for people with arthritis and to provide them with the right support and services to help their maximise their working potential."<