Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive, ERSA

Do you fancy a challenge? These were the words which launched the Government’s new Challenge Fund and it appears the answer from a lot of you is ‘yes’.

For those of you not in the know, the Work and Health Unit is one of the most interesting parts of central government. It is led jointly by the Department of Work and Pensions and Department for Health and Social Care and is charged with solving – or at least making marked progress on – the entrenched issue of people with disabilities and health conditions being out of work.

You might remember the ‘Improving Lives’ strategy launched after a huge consultation. This is looking to put in place the building blocks to make transformational change in our society and thus increase the numbers of people with disability and health conditions in work by one million.

This is one of those issues where everybody is on the same side. There’s cross party support, public support and no real push back from any sector.

However, questions arise about the ‘how’, including responsibilities of and support for employers (of all sectors), the role and nature of intermediaries and how the benefit system operates to support people manage and improve conditions so that jobs can be retained or gained.

It’s this ‘how’ question that the Work and Health Unit is designed to address. Put simply the evidence base about what works in helping people stay in work and gain work when they have disabilities and health issues is not as robust as we would like.

That’s not to say that we don’t know anything. Quite the opposite – we know that there have been organisations working to support individuals with disabilities and health conditions into employment for decades.

We also know that many businesses have been upping the ante in the support they give to staff members who enter work with disabilities or health conditions, or acquire them whilst in a job. But we need to know more and we need to learn from the very best.

Challenge fund Social media graphic 0

This is why the Work and Health Unit launched the Innovation Fund. That’s already funding a range of public service interventions designed to learn about what works in the delivery, co-ordination and alignment of the services that people with disability and health conditions use aimed at increasing the number in employment.

The Challenge Fund has now been created from the wider Innovation Fund to identify and fund innovative approaches aimed at testing these and learning more about how we help more people with the two most common issues stay in work – musculoskeletal and/or mental health problems.

Those it benefits might be at risk of losing their job because of sickness or may be already off work through ill health.

Refreshingly, the Government isn’t coming at this with pre-conceived ideas about what works or could work.

As such, it has drawn its parameters broadly, with projects welcomed that operate within one or more of the following areas:

  • Helping people stay in work by increasing their ability to self-manage their mental health and/or MSK conditions.  
  • Helping people access advice and support about what sort of work they might be capable of doing given their wider needs and circumstances.  
  • Developing new approaches to help employers and individuals develop workplace solutions, or ways of working that facilitate greater work participation of those with MSK and mental health conditions.
  • Improving systems by joining up services to strengthen communication, liaison or joint action to help those with mental health and MSK conditions to remain in work.  

Also refreshing is the focus of the Challenge Fund on encouraging innovation and ideas with an emerging evidence base.

These might be interventions which you have some reason to believe might bear fruit; programmes which have been running for a while but need a better evaluation; interventions which we could learn more from if they were scaled up; or potentially support which is known to be working in one area or sector, but could potentially operate effectively in another if tested.

Rocket Science is running the Fund, with ERSA’s support. To know more go to or book onto the market warming events via

Deadline for applications is 17 August.

There, I told you it was challenge.

Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive, ERSA

Copyright © 2018 FE News

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 2 hours 57 minutes ago

Matt’s the man for the job at Middlesbrough College Group: Middlesbrough College Group (@mbrocollege) has appointed…
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page