Background: Over the past decade, sickness absence has increased in Sweden and other Western European countries, with regard to both the number of people claiming sickness benefits and the length of the sick-leave spells. In Sweden, the activities initiated to promote RTW are performed in parallel by four different public organisations: the health services, the social services, the employment and the social insurance authorities. The present study focused on cooperation between professionals affiliated to the employment and social insurance authorities.
Aim: To gain deeper understanding on the experiences of professionals involved in cooperative projects aimed at promoting RTW among unemployed sickness benefit recipients.
Method: Qualitative analyses were performed of transcribed data from interviews of professionals participating in cooperative projects.
Result: The analyses identified four impmtant areas of the experiences of such cooperation. First, the daily collaboration on the same cases enabled development of good relationships and cooperative competence, which improved the contact with clients. Second, the cooperative projects made it possible to include only clients perceived motivated for RTW measures. Third, the closer and more frequent interaction with clients proved to be constmctive in that it facilitated recognition and mobilisation of the strengths and abilities of the clients in the RTW process. Fotnih, the differences in rules and regulations between the social insurance and the unemployment insurance standards was often mentioned, and were perceived to induce problems, for example, on how to assess the work capacity of clients.
Conclusion: The direct cooperation between the professionals from two different authorities was found to improve the application of RTW measures. The assessments of work capacity represent both important and complex tasks that professionals must perfonn without having access to either scientific knowledge or consensus agreement on which to base their decisions. Finally, it is important to gain further knowledge on how to create, develop, and maintain the 'cooperative competence' developed in the projects.