Introducing the Challenge Fund    #WHChallengeFund

The Government’s Work and Health Unit, a joint unit funded by the Department for Work and Pensions and Department of Health and Social Care, launched the Challenge Fund, a new time-limited source of funding aimed at testing new or promising approaches to helping people experiencing mental health or musculoskeletal (MSK) issues stay in work.  They might be at risk of losing their job because of sickness or may already be off work temporarily through ill health.

As a Unit, they state they did not have pre-conceived ideas about what worked or could work.  However, they believed that the existing evidence base was not sufficiently strong.  They called for bids to mobilise projects 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.


DWP has announced the successful bidders to the Work and Health Unit’s Challenge Fund. Almost £4 million of funding will be shared between the 19 projects. The Challenge Fund a joint initiative between the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health and Social Care, and has a focus on mental health and musculoskeletal conditions.

The successful projects will enable people to stay in work by helping them to manage their conditions themselves and making it easier to access advice and support.

Projects include a new mobile phone app which aims to ease lower back pain by giving sufferers a personalised self-management plan; and an app to help individuals understand signs of mental ill health, including access to a Vocational Rehabilitation trained advisor.

Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work Sarah Newton said:

“We want to harness the power of technology to tackle the disability employment gap, and these novel ideas will help us to achieve our goal of seeing one million more disabled people in work.

“The Challenge Fund has given experts on the ground the opportunity to come up with ideas on how best to support people to manage their health conditions at work, and the financial backing to take those ideas forward. I congratulate those successful in securing funding and look forward to working with them to develop these innovative ideas.”


The initiatives will address one or more of the following four broad areas of focus:

  • Self-management support: Providing advice to individuals on how they can self-manage their conditions to enable the individual to retain employment
  • Work capacity advice and support: identifying and exploiting opportunities that give people high-quality, actionable advice about their ability to do differing types of work, considering their wider needs and barriers to work
  • Adjustments to working environments: Developing new approaches to help individuals and employers identify appropriate workplace solutions, or alternative ways of working that facilitate work participation
  • Joining up services: Strengthening communication, liaison, or joint action between those involved in achieving better work-related outcomes for those with mental health and/or MSK conditions

Successful Providers

The 19 successful projects are:

  • Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust (Health Innovation Network)
  • The Pluss Organisation CIC – WorkFit
  • Southampton City Council – Well@Work
  • Microlink PC (UK) Ltd – MiGenius
  • Remploy Ltd – MyWellbeing@Work
  • Social Finance – The Link
  • Keele University – I-SWAP
  • Beatson Cancer Charity – We’re With You At Work
  • Enterprise Mentoring – The Enterprise Mentoring Programme (EMP)
  • Bristol City Council – Future Bright: Health and Work
  • Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust – A Whole System Approach to Mental Health for SMEs
  • Nottingham City Council – Construction Industry Peer Support (CIPS)
  • Institute for Employment Studies – Developing a Work Instability Tool for Depression and Anxiety
  • Bath Spa University – HOW (Healthier Outcomes at Work)
  • Rail Safety Standards Board – Mental Health in Rail Employment Support Service
  • Possability People
  • Cardiff University – Back-on-Line
  • North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust – Work Wise
  • Royal College of Occupational Therapists – OTVoc clinic