Sick benefit reform puts people back to work

The government’s reforms to sick benefits have resulted in a large number of people moving into work or training programmes.

The reforms placed a limit on the time people could be on sick leave. People who have been on state sick benefits for more than 180 days are now forced to either apply for work or training, or to seek lower sick benefits from Sweden’s social insurance agency.

Of the 18,000 people who passed the 180-day limit since the beginning of the year, only 6,000 have applied for continued sick benefits. the remaining 12,000 have either got work or have started a training programme run by Arbetsförmedlingen, the Swedish state labour exchange.

“Most of the people who came to Arbetsförmedlingen at the start of the year are either still with us in some sort of programme or are in a job with support. We think it is positive that so many people have taken the chance to get out on the job market again,” said Henrietta Stein, Arbetsförmedlingen’s head of rehabilitation.

Social Insurance minister Cristina Husmark Pehrsson said the reform had been successful:

“Twenty percent are in work of some sort and 40 percent are still in a programme at Arbetsförmedlingen. Previously, 100 percent were on sick insurance benefits,” she said.

But the Social Democratic of the Riksdag’s social insurance committee, Veronica Palm, said it was “a completely cynical and nasty policy where people have to lose their insurance to be given the right to support from Arbetsförmedlingen. This is far too high a price for many people to pay,” she said.

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Sweden records world’s first case of bird flu in a porpoise

A porpoise found stranded on a Swedish beach in June died of bird flu, the first time the virus has been detected in one of the marine mammals, Sweden's National Veterinary Institute said on Wednesday.

Sweden records world's first case of bird flu in a porpoise

“As far as we know this is the first confirmed case in the world of bird flu in a porpoise,” veterinarian Elina Thorsson said in a statement. “It is likely that the porpoise somehow came into contact with infected birds,” she said.

The young male was found stranded, alive, on a beach in western Sweden in late June. Despite efforts from the public to get it to swim out to deeper
waters, it was suffering from exhaustion and died the same evening.

The bird flu virus, H5N1, was found in several of its organs. “Contrary to seals, where illnesses caused by a flu virus have been detected multiple times, there have been only a handful of reports of flu virus in cetaceans”, Thorsson said.

The virus has also previously been detected in other mammals, including red foxes, otters, lynx and skunks, the institute said.

Europe and North America are currently seeing a vast outbreak of bird flu among wild birds.