The audit showed that for several years there has been a steady decrease in the number of new recipients of disability pension that have tried vocational rehabilitation before being granted disability pension. In 2000, only one in seven new recipients of disability pension had tried vocational rehabilitation. The Office of the Auditor General found that the Ministry of Labour and Government Administration does not seem especially willing to acknowledge that the low use of vocational rehabilitation poses a problem in relation to the large number of recipients of disability pension. The Office of the Auditor General would like to underline that the level of ambition should be raised further, particular in those cases where there is no obvious reason not to try rehabilitation.
In the Storting’s deliberation of the Rehabilitation Report in 1992, it was decided that the use of disability pension was to be avoided by, among other means increasing the use of vocational rehabilitation.
The objective of the Office of the Auditor General’s investigation was to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the work performed by the National Insurance Service and the Labour Market Administration to promote vocational rehabilitation before a disability pension eventual is granted, and the co-operation between the agencies in this connection.
In the period from 1993 until the end of 2000, there was a steady increase in the number of people receiving disability pension. At the end of 2000, almost 10 percent of the population between the ages of 18 and 67 years received a disability pension. In the age group 20 to 44, the number of new recipients of disability pension is doubled in this period. At the same time, there was a decrease in the number of new recipients of disability pension having tried vocational rehabilitation in the last three years before the pension was granted. From 1996 to 2000, this figure dropped from 17.8% to 14.2 %. Moreover, many of the new recipients of disability pension had not tried any other schemes either to keep them active, such as rehabilitation within the company or active sick leave, which means that people on sick leave can work when they feel capable.
The audit revealed that the National Insurance Service regarded some people as too healthy to be given a disability pension while the Labour Market Administration evaluated the same individuals as too sick and incapable of competing on the labour market. It took an unreasonably long time for the two agencies to agree on common objectives and priorities and to give clear, shared policy signals regarding attempts to get more people on to rehabilitation schemes. In terms of economics and the interests of the individuals involved, it is important that greater priority is given to improving the collaboration between the services.
The Ministry of Labour and Government Administration and the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs acknowledged that the lack of suitable jobs for occupationally handicapped people with mental ailments in labour market schemes posed a major political challenge. In 1999, people with mental ailments constituted almost half of the new recipients of disability pension under the age of 40 years. The Office of the Auditor General therefore stressed the importance of adjusting the labour market schemes under the Labour Market Administration to better meet the needs, at the same time as the health service schemes must be strengthened.
The Ministry of Labour and Government Administration and the Ministry of Health and Social Affairs acknowledged that over time, the growing number of people on disability pension and exclusion from the labour market have become a growing problem for society as a whole as well as the individuals affected. The Ministries stated that a range of measures have been implemented in recent years to improve efforts in this area.
This report is available in Norwegian on the Office of the Auditor General’s website – www.riksrevisjonen.no – or can be ordered from the University bookshop Akademika, tel. +47 22 11 67 70.