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Thursday, 16 March 2006

More Social Inclusion For People With Mental Health Problems

Written by The Editorial Team
A new drive to help people with mental health problems get back on their feet and back into work has been launched by UK Health Minister Rosie Winterton.

She published four sets of new guidance for commissioners of services designed to better re-integrate people that have suffered with mental health problems into society.
The guidance covers:
- vocational services - providing commissioners of mental health services with a framework to provide services enabling people with mental health problems to gain employment;
- day services - to refocus day services for adults with mental health problems from traditional day centre-based activities to community resources that promote social inclusion;
- direct payments - about one third of local authorities in England are not making make direct payments in lieu of mental health services; the guidance aims to ensure that such payments become the norm where appropriate; and
- women’s only day services - providing a safe space to help women engage in mainstream opportunities and offering women an opportunity to talk about issues that they may find difficult to discuss in a mixed environment.
The guidance has been drawn up following the report of the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) Social Exclusion and Mental Health, published in June 2004. The report sought to reduce the barriers to employment and community participation experienced by people with mental health problems. It identified further development of vocational services, day service modernisation and improved provision of direct payments for as key to reducing such barriers.
Launching the guidance, Rosie Winterton said:
“People who suffer from mental health problems remain one of the most excluded groups in society. Tackling inequalities and providing opportunities is a key objective for the government and these guidance documents will be a tool to help commissioners of mental health services provide better quality care so that people who have suffered from such problems are integrated more successfully.
“These sets of guidance will help patients through different stages of the patient journey. Direct payments can give people with mental health problems control over their own lives by providing an alternative to social care services provided by a local council. They give the person flexibility to find ‘off the peg’ solutions, leading to increased opportunities for independence and social inclusion.
“The guidance on day services and vocational services complement this by refocusing efforts on providing opportunities for people with mental health problems to access more community services and also gain employment.” {mospagebreak}
The new guidance on vocational services for people with mental health problems recognises that being in employment improves mental health outcomes, prevents suicide and reduces reliance on mental health services. It refocuses guidance on helping people back to work being a key part of their recovery and rehabilitation, rather than waiting for them to be fully recovered.
The Labour Force Survey (2003) showed that 24 per cent of people with mental health problems were in employment - with only 8 per cent of those with severe mental health problems in work. The vocational services guidance outlines measures to place people in employment settings consistent with their abilities and interests. It has been written in conjunction with the Department for Work and Pensions and Jobcentre Plus.
Employment Minister Margaret Hodge said:
“Work is an important part of rehabilitation. And people with mental health conditions have a right to share in the benefits a job can bring. In close partnership with the Department of Health, we are increasing the opportunities and support available for people on incapacity benefits to realise their potential.”
Angela Greatley, chief executive of the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, an independent charity, said:
“Too many people with mental health problems are barred from opportunities in life everyone else takes for granted. Having a job, a home and a social life are often made unnecessarily difficult. It is vital that public services work together to offer people with mental health problems greater equality of opportunity. They need to provide good quality advice and support for people who want to take up work, education or training. They need to offer genuine choices over what kind of care people get, where possible through direct payments and individual budgets. And they need to step up the fight against stigma and discrimination in society as a fundamental part of their work.
“Most people with mental health problems want to work but find the way barred. If health and social services follow the evidence of what is proven to work they could make a dramatic difference to the lives of many people.”