Jackie Baillie (third from left) with other MSPs at the Parliament reception for Versus Arthritis.
By Democrat reporter
Dumbarton and Lomond MSP Jackie Baillie, joined people living with arthritis at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on Wednesday to hear about the impact pain associated with the condition can have on a person’s the ability to remain in employment.
And how to ensure every person with arthritis who wants to work has the support they need.
Healthcare charity Versus Arthritis highlighted its work with people with arthritis in Scotland to identify the barriers they face in this regard.
Arthritis can make work more difficult, with tasks such as commuting, carrying equipment or even typing becoming challenging.
Only 60% of working age adults with a musculo-skeletal condition like arthritis are in work compared to 80% of people with no health problems.
The Scottish Government has pledged to halve the employment ‘gap’ between disabled people and the rest of the working age population by 2038.
For this target to be met, it is vital that people with arthritis have the support they need to stay in or return to work.
For example one-third of people with rheumatoid arthritis will have stopped working within two years of diagnosis. This increases to half being unable to work after 10 years.
However, the charity found that in Scotland people with arthritis experience negative attitudes from colleagues and employers about their condition and its impact on work.
People with arthritis also face difficulties accessing support and need better coordination of health, social security and employment services to help them be in work.
This means too many people with arthritis go without the support they need and are unnecessarily struggling or dropping out of work.
Versus Arthritis is calling for increased awareness of the impact of musculo-skeletal conditions on work and earlier access to interventions that can help people with arthritis manage their condition and remain in employment.
Local Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie said: “Almost 1.5 million people in Scotland are living with arthritis and related conditions. I wanted to show support in Holyrood for my constituents and highlight the steps we can all take to make life easier for people with arthritis who want to work.
“It is important that people with arthritis in West Dunbartonshire & Argyll and Bute are aware of the help available, such as the NHS 24 Musculoskeletal Helpline and Fair Start Scotland, and can access support when they need it.”
Angela Donaldson-Bruce, Scotland Director at Versus Arthritis, said: “It was fantastic to see Jackie Baillie MSP at our event in Parliament, hearing from people with arthritis about the impact of the condition on their working lives and the support that can make a difference.
“Arthritis and the pain it causes slowly intrudes on everyday life, affecting someone’s quality of life, independence, mental health and ability to work. But we know that most people with arthritis want to work, and many can with the right support. MSPs like Jackie Baillie can help to shine a light on what more can be done.”
Stephanie, a 17 year-old high-school student who was first diagnosed with arthritis aged three, spoke to MSPs at the event about the barriers she faces in planning for future employment.
She said: “It was a privilege to be able to speak to influential decision-makers at Versus Arthritis’ event and I hope it will make a difference.
“I have had arthritis since I was very young, and I have often felt worried about my future. But thanks to support from Versus Arthritis I’ve become more confident talking about my condition and can manage the impact of my symptoms better.
“I now feel really excited about what I can do next, and I’m hoping to go to university to study immunology. People with arthritis require to be able to get the support they need, when they need it.”
Dumbarton, Vale and Clydebank Health Centres.
About Versus Arthritis
We are a new charity here to demand and deliver better with and for people with arthritis. We are a movement of volunteers, healthcare professionals, researchers, family and friends doing everything we can to push back against arthritis. We invest in and deliver cutting edge research, provide quality services and advice, and campaign for arthritis to be a health priority, so the pain, fatigue and isolation of arthritis are no longer tolerated.
Versus Arthritis came to life in September 2018 as a result of the merger of two of UK’s largest arthritis charities – Arthritis Research UK and Arthritis Care.
Find out more at www.versusarthritis.org
About the changes people with arthritis need to be in work
Versus Arthritis delivered a workshop in Glasgow in June 2019 to further understand the impact of arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions on work in Scotland. This brought together over 40 people with arthritis and included information and advice sessions with content captured through group-work. The workshop was structured around exploring the experience of work and arthritis in Scotland, and how people feel they can be better supported to be in work. Analysis of the responses to these questions highlighted three major themes:
- A lack of understanding and awareness about arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions.
People reported employers and colleagues have poor knowledge of the impact that arthritis can have on an individual’s ability to work, and generally negative attitudes towards disability in the workplace.
- A lack of effective and cohesive support to be, and remain, in work.
While some participants were aware of certain employment support services, most felt that these were not well advertised, difficult to access and often not person-centered, and therefore not fit for purpose.
- System-wide change is required to better support people with arthritis.
Many people felt that a wider set of factors have an influence on their ability to be in work, and that greater co-ordination of the services they use is required, including health and welfare systems.