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The Administrative Data Research Network is an ESRC-funded project that ran from October 2013 - July 2018. It is currently at the end of its funding cycle and is no longer taking applications. Administrative data research will be taken forward in a new project, to be launched later in 2018.

Supporting Older People into Employment (SOPIE): Identifying factors influencing return to work in the over 50s – linkage of DWP data to health data.

Research overview

In the UK there has been a steady increase during the past 40 years in the number of people, now 2.6 million, on long term health related benefits despite work becoming much safer and less physically demanding. We know that generally work is good for our health. However health problems are inevitable with age and over the age of 50 years an increasing number of people leave work through ill health. Unemployment may also be caused by closure of industries and lack of suitable alternative work, and sometimes by a lack of skills in the individual. Those that leave work and go onto benefits tend to experience more rapid deterioration in their health and die younger than those who are able to stay in work. It has also has been shown that people who return to work become healthier and generally live longer.


In the past unemployed individuals have not had enough help in improving their health, nor have they had enough support in terms of retraining, building their confidence, and helping them find work. The Work Programme introduced in 2011 across the UK was set up to provide this help. This project is currently investigating Work Programme clients in Scotland. Ingeus is one of two Work Programme providers in Scotland who deliver the Work Programme on behalf of DWP.


This research is being undertaken by a unique partnership between DWP, Ingeus and a research team led by the University of Glasgow. The partnership is studying the Ingeus Work Programme clients, including those with health problems, who participate in Work Programme interventions to help them return to work and sustain employment however there is currently limited health data available. There will be a particular focus on those clients over 50, as this age group is a priority group for policy makers. The Government wants to get clients back to work and although ‘work is good for health’ they are not actively measuring changes in health as part of the Work Programme as this data is not collected. This proposed unique linkage of the Work Programme data to NHS health data, via the ADRN, provides the opportunity to study changes in health of those clients aged 50+ and will lead to a better understanding of the health impacts of engaging with the Work Programme and RTW. The study will establish a long term study of older people going through the Work Programme and investigate how the clients’ health changes as they engage with the Work Programme and determine if returning to work after unemployment improves health or not.


The number of people in the UK on long term health related benefits is now in excess of 2.6 million and a large proportion are over 50, when the risk of falling out of work due to health reasons is highest. The annual cost of health related disability and worklessness in the UK is £100 billion. There is evidence that many of these individuals do have the potential to work but need effective interventions to achieve this. Our research will assess the effectiveness of a specific work programme for the ageing population to inform existing and future programmes and help more people extend their working lives. This will improve social inclusion, reduce health and other inequalities, and improve prosperity.

Date Approved

June 2017

Project team

Dr Judith Brown (lead researcher)

Professor Ewan Macdonald

University of Glasgow

University of Glasgow

Professor Ron McQuaid

University of Stirling

Professor Alastair Leyland

University of Glasgow

Dr Srinivasa Vittal Katikireddi

University of Glasgow

Professor John Frank

University of Edinburgh

Page last updated: 23/12/2017