Cornwall is to be one of 15 areas to pilot a new £64 million government project designed to get people with health conditions going back to work.

Called ‘WorkWell’, it is a joint scheme from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), starting in October.

The government says it wants to connect 59,000 people nationally with local support services, including physiotherapy and counselling, so they can get the “tailored help they need” to stay in or return to work. This includes anyone with a health condition or disability, including mental health conditions.

It is a voluntary service, to which people will be able to self-refer, although they can also be referred via their GP, employer or through the community.

It comes after the Prime Minister announced a series of welfare reforms to “modernise” the benefit system and get thousands more people into work - including a review of fit notes.

Those accessing WorkWell do not need to be claiming any government benefits and will receive personalised support from a Work and Health Coach, which could include advice on flexible working or adaptive technology, setting up conversations with employers about health needs, or providing access to local services such as physiotherapy, employment advice and counselling.

The WorkWell service is described as a “single, joined-up assessment and gateway” to receiving support from both employment and health services locally, which the government says will “help people manage their conditions” as well as identify any adjustments in the work place that could allow them to stay in work, or return sooner.

It comes as latest figures show there are currently 2.8 million people described as being ‘economically inactive’ due to long-term sickness.

NHS data shows almost 11 million fit notes were issued last year nationally, with 94 per cent of those signed “not fit for work”. In the Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly there were 95,934 fit notes issued – the lowest number out of the 15 areas in the pilot scheme.

The Prime Minister has announced a review of the fit note system to stop people being written off as “not fit for work” by default and instead the new system will look at “what people can do with the right support in place, rather than what they can’t do”. The plan is to also integrate fit notes more closely with WorkWell, rather than through GPs.

WorkWell is described as a key part of the Government's £2.5 billion Back to Work Plan, to get up to 1.1 million people with long-term health conditions, disabilities and long-term unemployment looking for and staying in work.

This also includes changes to the Work Capability Assessment, which are expected to reduce the number of people put onto the highest tier of incapacity benefits by 424,000, by 2028/29.

A ‘Chance to Work Guarantee’ will mean people can try work without fear of losing their benefits.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride MP said: “Too many today are falling out of work in a spiral of sickness that harms their finances, their prospects and ultimately their health, where with the right workplace adjustments and help, this needn’t be the case.

“And so we have designed WorkWell, a groundbreaking new service, that will for the first time integrate health and work advice at the local level, as part of our plan to stem the flow into economic inactivity, grow the economy, and change lives for the better.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins added: “Too often, people with disabilities or poor health fall out of work with no support. “This service, alongside a faster, simpler and fairer health service, will build a healthier workforce, and a stronger economy.”