Report 48: Mental health, employment and the social care workforce

Law, policy and guidance

Mental health problems are now the most common reason for long-term sickness absence... As a result work and psychiatric disorders is a high priority for policymakers (45).

A series of government reforms since the mid 1990s have aimed to reduce the numbers of people on incapacity-related benefits. Programmes including the ONE Advisory Service, New Deal for Disabled People, and Pathways to Work have focused on encouraging people to seek work by providing incentives to work and disincentives to remain on benefits. However, these reforms have been shown to have limited success in increasing the employment of people with long term and complex problems, especially those with mental health problems. Alongside these measures is a need to address the barriers to employment of people with mental health issues (41).

Since the turn of the century governments have aimed to reduce health inequalities and social exclusion by demonstrating the contribution of employment to personal health and wellbeing. This has been reinforced by legislation which outlaws employment discrimination (28, 46). A major report by Dame Carol Black provided an evidence base for this (47). Action to improve health and work and reduce sickness absence and avoidable job loss is being taken forward by the Health, Work and Wellbeing initiative (HWWB), run by a cross departmental group (Department for Work and Pensions, the Department of Health, the Health and Safety Executive, the Scottish Executive and the Welsh Assembly Government).

HWWB has established a national agenda to improve awareness of health and wellbeing at work, and developed evidence-based methods to enable people to remain in work or get back to work more quickly after a health problem (48), (47), (1), (49), (21). Since mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression are one of the leading health problems among people of working age (45), strategies for enabling people with mental health problems to retain or regain work are an essential part of this plan (49), (50).

Current Government mental health policy (51) highlights the importance of improved employment rates for people with mental health problems as one of their key objectives in promoting mental health and wellbeing.


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