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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 1 May 2006

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Increased poor workplace health no laughing matter

INCREASED anger and loss of humour amongst people in the workplace are just 2 of the knock-on effects that businesses in the North West now have to deal with due to poor workplace health, according to new research.

The ‘Quality of Working Life’ report published by the Chartered Management Institute and Workplace Health Connect uncovers a high number of physical and psychological symptoms and highlights the impact these have on business performance.

The survey questioned 1,541 managers in the UK revealing a poor picture of health, with 43% managers in the North West believing they are currently in ‘good’ health. Key findings of the report were:

* Taking the strain: 45% admitted to feeling or becoming angry with others too easily and 36% confessed to a loss of humour creating workplace pressures.

* Pressure point: 54% of those questioned in the North West complained of muscular tension or physical aches and pains. 44% said they experienced frequent headaches.

* Fighting fatigue: Asked about psychological symptoms, 58% experienced feelings of constant tiredness at work. 59% complained of insomnia.

The report also shows that ill-health is having an impact on morale and performance. 34% admit they are irritable ‘sometimes or often’ towards colleagues. Some managers in the North West also want to avoid contact with other people (30%) and many (24%) have difficulty making decisions due to ill health.

Mary Chapman, chief executive of the Chartered Management Institute, says:- “With the impact of ill-health being keenly felt in the workplace, managers need a better understanding of the consequences of letting relatively minor symptoms escalate. They need to take more personal responsibility for improving their health because inaction is clearly having an effect on colleagues and the knock-on effect is that customer relationships will suffer, too.”

Elizabeth Gyngell, programme director at Workplace Health Connect, says:- “Health activities should not be driven by a concern over legislation, but by the understanding that improved well-being can generate significant benefits to morale and performance. This means organisations should ensure their employees are well versed in identifying and addressing symptoms before they escalate.”

COUNCILS TREBLE CONVICTIONS FOR BENEFIT FRAUD IN 4 YEARS

ON THE day Emmerdale's Dawn Woods will learn she is to spend 6 weeks in prison after being convicted of benefit fraud, the Local Government Association has warned other potential swindlers face joining her behind bars if they rip off tax payers.

New figures released this week have revealed the number of people convicted of benefit fraud following a council prosecution has almost tripled from 1,732 to 4,688 in the last 4 years.  

The LGA has stressed councils are willing to see that figure rise in their on-going war against the benefit cheats that are costing the taxpayer nationally almost £1billion a year.

Typical scams include people:-

Receiving housing and council tax benefit whilst claiming to be unemployed but working full-time

Claiming under false identities

Pretending to be single parents

Failing to declare incomes or changes in circumstances on housing benefit claims

Sir Sandy Bruce Lockhart, chairman of the LGA, said:- "Benefit fraud is not a victimless offence. These criminals are cheating the tax payer and stealing money that could be spent on the genuinely vulnerable.  Councils adopt a zero tolerance approach to this abuse of public funds. The message to the fraudsters is clear - try and con the system and you will end up behind bars.  Local authorities will continue to work closely with the Department of Work and Pensions to prosecute people who commit benefit fraud."

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