DENMARK - Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen visited the offices of labour market pension scheme PenSam this morning, to learn about a project to reduce the number of people taking early retirement on health grounds.

More than 14,000 Danes took early retirement last year because of poor heath, PenSam said, adding this costs local authorities about DKK34bn (€4.56bn) a year in early pension payments nationally.

The pension scheme has been running a project for the last three years to encourage scheme members to stay in work rather than take health-related early retirement.

PenSam said it started the project because of the higher-than-average disability rate of its clients, who belong to the county's third-largest trade union FOA (Fag og Arbejde).

"The PenSam model kills two birds with one stone," said PenSam director Helen Kobæk.
"It can save a lot of money, and make more hands available in the labour market."

Each participant in the project, called "Hang on to your job", is given a social adviser, who acts as a personal coach. The adviser helps by liaising with public authorities and supporting the individual in making decisions, the scheme says.

"It is a series of initiatives," explained PenSam spokeswoman Lene Nording-Grooss.

"We try to visit people at home to find out what their problems are, and we can pay for physiotherapy or psychological help, for example.

"The most effective part has been the coaching, because many of the people had felt so alone before," she added.

In June, PenSam said the project had resulted in 34 members staying in work rather than taking early retirement, saving the scheme DKK8m in disability pension payment, while the project had cost DKK3m.

Nording-Grooss said the Danish minister of social affairs has given a report on the project to the political parties involved in negotiating the early retirement pension reform. However, right now, Danish politicians are busy ahead of next Tuesday's general election.

"We're hoping they will be inspired by this project, because it is a win-win situation; it improves quality of life and saves money," said Nording-Grooss.