Mental health charity Mind is calling for all people with mental health problems to be taken off mainstream Government back-to-work schemes and moved onto a specialist programme.
Research from the charity has found that support provided through the Work Programme and Jobcentre Plus is damaging people’s health and making them feel less able to work than when they started. At the same time, these schemes are ineffective for people with mental health problems, as only 5 per cent of people have actually been helped into work.
Mind surveyed 439 people who were receiving support primarily because of their mental health. Eighty three per cent said using back-to-work services through the Work Programme and/or Jobcentre Plus had made their mental health worse or much worse, 83 per cent said their self-esteem had got worse or much worse and 82 per cent agreed that their confidence was worse or much worse. So it’s hardly surprising that three quarters (76 per cent) of those polled said they felt less able to work as a result of being on these schemes.
Shockingly, 86 per cent of respondents said they had needed more support from mental health services and/or their GP, and nearly one in four (24 per cent) had been hospitalised or sectioned in a mental health crisis while being on these back-to-work support programmes.
Worryingly, these schemes are even damaging the mental health of individuals who haven’t got a diagnosed mental health problem. We surveyed 200 people who said a mental health problem wasn’t the main reason they needed support. Of these, 81 per cent said it had made their mental health worse, 86 per cent agreed that their self-esteem had become worse, and 86 per cent said their confidence was worse.
The negative impact these schemes are having on people with mental health problems may explain why their performance has been so poor, with only 5 per cent getting into work. Mind’s report ‘We’ve got work to do: transforming employment and back-to-work support for people with mental health problems’ argues that a much more tailored approach is needed. Mind is calling for everyone with mental health problems to be offered an alternative scheme which would understand mental health, provide more specialised support and help people overcome the barriers they face to working.
Currently, people who fail to engage with activities asked of them may have their benefits stopped for a period of time, causing a great deal of distress as well as financial problems. Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) figures show that people with mental health problems are having their benefits cut more than those with other conditions, a further example of how back-to-work support schemes are particularly ineffective for this group. Typically people are offered generic courses like CV writing classes and confidence building workshops, regardless of their skills, experience, work background or health conditions.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “Just five per cent of people with mental health problems are being helped into work, while the vast majority tell us their health has worsened and they feel less able to work as a result of being on these schemes. It’s perverse that programmes which are supposed to help those who are unwell and struggling to get into work are having the opposite effect, damaging their health.
“These schemes are not appropriate for people with mental health problems. If someone is out of work because of depression and anxiety, simply asking them to attend a CV writing course is a waste of time and money, as it doesn’t address the real problems they are facing. Forcing people to engage in these activities, and cutting their benefits if they struggle to do so, is inappropriate and counter-productive. This approach assumes people don’t want to work and the only way to motivate them is to withdraw financial support, which only causes greater anxiety and stress, and makes returning to work less likely.
“We need everyone who is out of work because of their mental health problem to be placed onto new, locally commissioned schemes which reflect individual and local needs. Such a scheme would take a personalised, tailored approach which really understands and addresses the complex nature of mental health problems and how they can impact someone’s ability to find and keep a job.
“Most people with mental health problems who are out of work want to work and would be able to do so with the right support. Improving back-to-work support, including ensuring employers see the value in recruiting and supporting staff with experience of mental health problems, would help hundreds of thousands of people move into employment.”