Fitness for work after vocational rehabilitation organized by the State Social Security Institute of Iceland
The evaluation of a vocational rehabilitation programme initiated by the State Social Security Institute in Iceland (SSSI) in 1999 with the aim of reducing disability.
New disability claimants who had been unable to work because of illness for a few months at least were referred by SSSI physicians to a multidisciplinary team for assessment of rehabilitation potentials and an advice on the appropriate type of rehabilitation. The study group included all the 109 individuals who were referred to the team in the year 2000. Data on marital status, number of children and level of education was compared with information about the Icelandic population obta ined in a national survey. The outcome of the rehabilitation was assessed in a telephone survey, carried out by the Social Science Research Institute, University of Iceland, 1-2 years after the assessment and by information obtained from the disability register at SSSI. The effectiveness of the rehabilitation programme was evaluated by comparing the study group with a comparable group that had started to receive rehabilitation pension before the SSSI could offer vocational rehabilitation. Their progress was assessed a year and half after they had contacted the SSSI, the same length of time as the study group had been in the in the rehabilitation programme.
In the study group there were about twice as many women as men. The mean age was 35 years (range 18-57 years). The main medical reasons for referral to the team were musculosceletal and psychiatric disorders. Those evaluated were more likely to be unmarried or divorced, had more children and a lower educational level than the general Icelandic population. After evaluation 40 individuals were referred to vocational rehabilitation for approximately 2 months in a rehabilitation clinic; 19 were referred to a 6 week personal computer training at a vocational rehabilitation centre and 15 to a longer (usually 18 months) rehabilitation program in the same centre. In all, 46 individuals received other treatment or education. Almost three quarters (72%) of the participants in the telephone survey said that their fitness for work had increased after rehabilitation, but only 47% had returned to work. At the time of the reserach, 23% were students and it is likely that a part of them will return to work when their studies are completed. Between one and two years after the evaluation by the multidisciplinary team 44 out of 109 (40.4%) in the study group received disability pension and a equal number received no social insurance benefits at all. In the comparison group 97 out of 119 (81.5%) received disability pension and 21 (17.7%) received no social insurance benefits at all.
This study shows that vocational rehabilitation organized by the SSSI is effective and can prevent disability. The results of this study are similar to the results of two Swedish studies on the same topic.