Welfare reform requires more carrots than sticks
Posted Monday 5 March 2007
Around 40 per cent of Incapacity Benefit claimants have mental health problems.
In advance of the publication of the Freud report, Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said:
"Mind recognises the need for welfare reform. Many people on incapacity benefit with mental health problems want to work, but they need the right support and assistance in order to do so. Work is its own incentive, but people will remain on incapacity benefit if they can't access that support, or if working environments remain hostile. We would welcome any moves to give people access to greater support in the workplace as they start in new jobs. This would help lower the number of repeat claimants, who work for a while and then soon become unwell again."
On compulsion, Mr Farmer said:
"The risk of compulsion is that people are forced or scared into jobs for which they aren't ready. It's important that the fluctuating nature of mental health problems is fully appreciated by all involved in the welfare system. We need to recognise that everyone's health and social needs are different - people must feel confident that welfare staff appreciate their circumstances to give them a sense of security and allow the system to work.
"We welcome the recognition that the voluntary sector has an important role to play in helping people into employment, but our clients must always come first. Trust is one of the voluntary sector's unique selling points. We can't betray people by getting involved in compelling them into work before they are ready, or without the support they need.
Discrimination is still highest hurdle:
"One of the biggest barriers to work for people with mental health problems is the discrimination they face from employers. Time and again research has shown that employers discriminate against people who have a history of mental health problems. We can't make any significant progress on getting people back into work until this hurdle has been overcome. The Government has recognised this problem but their efforts to tackle it need to be dramatically increased. A well-funded and effective anti-stigma programme in Scotland has made great progress in improving understanding of mental ill health, for example through television adverts. Progress south of the border has been far slower."