The Government has today published plans which it says will help more people with mental health problems to find and stay in work.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
On WCA/personalised support:
“The Government had said it intends to ‘personalise’ support for people with mental health problems to help them find and stay in work. We want to see the Government do more to offer people with mental health problems voluntary support but it has missed an opportunity to change fundamental parts of the welfare system that currently simply do not work. It is clear that they have failed to listen to thousands of people with mental health problems who told them that sanctioning and conditionality have no place in helping people to find work.
“Every year 300,000 people with mental health problems fall out of work and for many this is the first step in a spiral of problems with benefits, debt and worsening mental health. People with mental health problems make up a huge proportion of those undergoing the WCA and we know that at least 2,800 of the 6,000 responses to the Government’s consultation to this issue were from people with mental health problems. We know this because they shared their responses with us and we read every single one. Overwhelmingly they were opposed to the Government’s plans, which fail to address the need to improve the assessment process and instead leave the door wide open for increasing the use of sanctions. The Government’s failure to abandon these proposals shows that they haven’t listened – and claiming that those who responded to the consultation were supportive of their plans dangerously misrepresents the views of people with mental health problems.
“The Government has described these proposals as improving access to ‘personalised support’ but in practice they would amount to a huge expansion of the use of benefit sanctions through the backdoor. The Department for Work and Pensions’ own research shows the significant negative impact that sanctions and mandatory requirements have on people with mental health problems, which was echoed in the personal testimonies of those responding to the Green Paper. They are damaging, increase fear and mistrust of the system and, perversely, push people further away from work, yet today’s response from Government doesn’t even make any mention of this. This is an insult to those who took the time to share difficult personal experiences in the belief that it would make a difference and help put a stop to such a cruel and misguided system.
“Unless the Government rethinks these proposals and takes real action to make support voluntary, too many people with mental health problems will continue to experience going to an appointment at a Jobcentre as a source of fear and anxiety rather than the first step in finding support.”
On Thriving at Work:
“We are pleased that the Government broadly welcomes the recommendations in the Stevenson-Farmer employment review’s report, Thriving at Work, which came out last month. We look forward to hearing more detailed plans about delivery, accountability and how success will be measured and evaluated.”
On sick pay:
“We agree that the sick pay system makes it difficult for someone with a mental health problem to take gradual steps to return to work and we welcome the commitment to reform. We want to see a system that is focussed on the needs of the individual and offers greater flexibility to help people return to work. We would be concerned if any proposals led to people facing pressure to return to work too early, or to quickly use up their entitlement in a way which might risk their financial security in the future.”
On health services:
“This review reinforces the importance of improving mental health services, as getting back into work can only happen if the system supports people with both their employment and their health needs.
“We are pleased that this morning the NHS has restated its commitments around mental health. The delivery of the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health is essential to bringing mental health services up to a basic standard, to start building the support we have lacked for many, many decades. We know that the NHS has to make difficult decisions at the moment – it is the right choice to invest in mental health because the sooner people who are struggling get the help they need, the more likely it is that they will avoid needing more intensive and expensive support further down the line.”