Date: Monday November 20, 2017 State: NSW

Workplace Rehabilitation – Refusing to be the Convenient Scapegoat!

Genuine partnerships to improve return to work results are built not only on sharing important information and data, but also on sound analysis and interpretation in order to truly understand what drives both spend and outcomes. ARPA has not seen the data referred to in Mr Nagle’s article, nor had opportunity to review and respond, despite the assertion that they are “bringing icare closer to the workplace rehabilitation providers” to “improve how the industry works together”. We look forward to this opportunity in earnest.

ARPA considers it both important and necessary to respond to what we believe are dangerous generalisations and conclusions outlined in the article regarding the value of workplace rehabilitation.

The regulator of both icare and all workplace rehabilitation providers in NSW, the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA), has data which presents a very different picture than that outlined in this article.  In a recent LinkedIn Article and presentation at the Actuaries Institute's Injury and Disability Schemes Seminar (IDSS) Mr Nagle states that “77% of workers return to work within three months…yet the annual spend on workplace rehabilitation has grown by 35% and continues to climb” and that return to work with rehabilitation intervention “is on a downward trend”.

SIRA data, which has been provided to icare, shows a vastly different state of affairs. It shows:

Spend on workplace rehabilitation has indeed increased in the 2015 – 2016 year (by 29% not 35%). However, during this time:

  • the number of referrals to rehabilitation increased from 16,846 to 22,316 – a 32% increase, accounting for the growth in spend;
  • The average spend per claim for both Same and Different Employer has actually reduced;
  • The return to Work Same Employer Rate increased by 21% in 12 months to over 90%, and
  • The return to Work Different Employer Rate increased by 19% in 12 months to almost 40%.

Both Same Employer and Different Employer rates are at historical highs for cases where workplace rehabilitation is involved. There is a clear link between return to work rates and the increased use of workplace rehabilitation. If the overall return to work rate for the scheme is holding steady, it would seem it cannot be attributed to the performance of workplace rehabilitation which has achieved enormous improvements for cases in which our members have been involved

ARPA agrees with Mr Nagle that multiple and inconsistent contracts and the disconnectedness of the existing service model has led to confusion and variation in service delivery. We agree that it needs to be improved and we welcome true partnership and consultation to do so. Focusing however on workplace rehabilitation as a primary reason for underperformance plainly contradicts the evidence.

ARPA strongly supports working in partnership with all stakeholders to improve return to work outcomes, customer experience and value-for-money services. This takes genuine and open transparency and collaboration to achieve.

We look forward to working with icare and SIRA to establish clarity and improvements for the scheme and all stakeholders so that employer premiums can be purposefully and wisely utilised to achieve exceptional outcomes for all workers who have sustained injuries.