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The research team behind a recent report recommends that the regulations for payment of rehabilitation benefit should be more strictly implemented where young people who are not seriously ill are concerned. Photo: SINTEF/Svein Tønseth

Researchers advise against giving health related benefits to healthy youth

Young people without severe health problems should not be given work assessment allowance. They should instead be the responsibility of the municipal services, says one of the most highly recognized labor market researchers in Norway.

Forsker Solveig Osborg Ose i SINTEF. Foto: SINTEF.

SINTEF scientist Solveig Osborg Ose. Photo: SINTEF

SINTEF scientist Solveig Osborg Ose has been project manager of a large study that analyses the functioning of one of Norway’s biggest health-related benefit schemes – work assessment allowance. The allowance is granted when impaired work capability is due to illness or injury.

“I am especially concerned for the young receivers”, says Ose.

Based on many interviews and surveys from different actors within the welfare system, the researchers have several recommendations for the authorities. Among others, that the regulations should be practiced more strictly in the cases of young applicants without severe health problems.

In a chronicle in the Norwegian daily newspaper Dagens Næringsliv, 13th of April 2015, the social scientists present their recommendations:

  • We are especially concerned for the young people. They are at high risk of becoming passive receivers of benefits because they are not followed-up closely.
  • The health related benefit should be reserved for persons with severe health problems.
  • Social problems, mental health symptoms such as symptoms of depression, and unsuccessful coping with various problems should not be treated as severe illness. But the General Practitioners use medical diagnoses in the doctor note, so that persons with such problems are granted the health related benefit. The doctors would probably not have done that, if they knew how easy it is to become in-active on this benefit. Meeting with the welfare office 2-4 times a year is common.
  • The results for the youths are curriculum vitae with large holes in them, which have low value in the labour market. However, the youths often receive more money from the welfare office than from their first job as unskilled workers. Their incentives to work become weak, and their health problems are exaggerated to keep the benefit.
  • The municipalities are responsible for all services that have the power to prevent youths from ending up outside the education system or the labour market. Without charging the municipalities the costs of supporting unemployed youths, the municipalities have no incentives to prevent the youths from ending up with no educations and jobs. The national welfare system is not equipped to prevent that the inhabitants are becoming dependent of economic benefit, but the local services are.