A precarious equilibrium

How can we better support people receiving temporary disability benefits on their way to employment?

  • timespan2021 → present
  • capabilitydesign research
    systemic design
    social design

For years, individuals receiving disability benefits have been less employed than the rest of the working population. This difference is larger than expected based on their limitations. A significant portion of individuals entitled to sickness benefits (ZW), work-related disability benefits (WGA), and disability benefits for young people (Wajong) can still work (partially) but face difficulties in doing so. Various professionals from the Employee Insurance Agency (UWV) and rehabilitation companies strive to assist their clients in the best possible way on their path to employment.

In this research, we examine how the desires, abilities, and actions of benefit recipients are influenced and what actionable perspectives we can provide to professionals involved in implementation to achieve more effective reintegration. After a series of expert interviews, literature review, and 60 in-depth interviews with individuals receiving disability benefits, a clear understanding emerged of what motivates clients in a reintegration process. It became apparent that people’s behavior cannot be comprehended by a single cause but is the result of a complex dynamic of factors that change over time. Through observations of professionals in practice and working sessions with professionals, we gained more insight into how client conversations unfold in practice in order to unravel this complexity.

Based on these insights, we have developed a new approach to client conversations. This approach focuses on fostering self-awareness among individuals receiving disability benefits and making joint decisions regarding appropriate next steps for sustainable reintegration. We are evaluating this new approach in practice to both to refine this new approach and to learn about the systemic nature of this complex problem situation.