Mind comments on social exclusion minister announcement
Posted Monday 27 February 2006
To tackle social exclusion, minister must get to grips with mental ill health
Mental health charity Mind today welcomed Tony Blair's announcement that a Cabinet minister will be given direct responsibility for social exclusion, and called for mental health issues to be put at the core of the social exclusion agenda.
People with experience of mental distress are still likely to face stigma and discrimination on a daily basis. Fewer than four in ten employers say they would recruit someone with a mental health problem (1). People are unable to engage with their community because of barriers to decent housing and transport and a lack of recognition from education, arts and sports providers about improving accessibility for this group. The resulting isolation serves to exacerbate mental ill health.
Over 900,000 adults in England alone claim sickness and disability benefits for mental health conditions, with particularly high claimant rates in the North. (2)
Dr Marcus Roberts, Head of Policy at Mind, said:
"The Social Exclusion Unit has already acknowledged that people with mental health problems are one of the most excluded groups in society. To date, mental health issues haven't always had the attention they warrant within the social exclusion debate, even though mental ill health and social exclusion often go hand in hand.
The social exclusion agenda touches every part of government. This minister must have the drive and dynamism to work effectively across Whitehall, and the clout to change thinking in every government department.
Particularly at a time when the government is looking to reduce its welfare bill, it's crucial that the minister is able to foster a recognition of the problems people with a history of mental health problems face in getting in to work. The government's hopes for incapacity benefit reform will come to little if the largest single group of claimants, people with mental health problems, continue to face discrimination from employers despite the desire of many of them to find work.
The minister must quickly set about implementing the recommendations in the Social Exclusion Unit's report on mental health: a proper programme to tackle stigma and discrimination and giving people with mental health problems a real chance of employment.
If this minister is to take on responsibility for part of the 'Respect agenda', we would hope that they take seriously the concerns of many in the mental health field over the misuse of Asbos, too often issued to people who need treatment, not punishment."
1) DWP, 2001.
2) The Social Exclusion Unit's 2004 report on mental health found that:
- Fewer than a quarter of adults with mental health problems work, the lowest employment rate for any of the main groups of disabled people.
- Social isolation is an important risk factor for deteriorating mental health and even suicide.
- Prescription costs for antidepressant drugs have risen significantly in recent years.
3) Mind press release on incapacity benefit reform green paper
4) Mind is a member of Asbo Concern.