The government will invest £13m over the next three years to help people with mental health problems secure employment, the work and pensions secretary Peter Hain and health secretary Alan Johnson announced yesterday.
The funding package will treble the number of Job Centre Plus employment advisers in GP surgeries and pilot a new £8m advice and support service for smaller businesses. Both pilots are being developed and are expected to launch in the second half of 2008.
The government hopes the £13m package will support people with stress and mental health conditions find and stay in work and reduce the number of stress-related sick notes.
Hain said that mental ill health was the biggest single cause for absences from work and made up 40% of incapacity benefit claims.
The two pilots underpin the development of the first national strategy for mental health and work, led by the national director for health and work Dame Carol Black, which is set to launch in the New Year.
Johnson said: “Each year many people are unnecessarily forced to give up their jobs because of mental health problems, which is a terrible waste of talent for British business and a great loss to the individual.”
Mental health charities, the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health and the Mental Health Foundation, welcomed the government’s plans.
Moira Fraser, head of policy at the Mental Health Foundation, said: “Looking ahead, GP surgeries should also be a place in which people with mental health problems can access advice and support about money, housing and parenting – other areas that often directly affect a person’s mental health.”
However, Fraser added: “When the government’s new plans are rolled out, care must be taken to ensure that people with mental health problems are supported to find appropriate jobs. Individuals must not be coerced into unsuitable employment.”
The government also plans to link the Pathways to Work and Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programmes as they roll them out nationally over the next three years, a move which Sainsbury Centre employment programme director Dr Bob Grove described as “vital”.
He added: “With the promise of more private sector provision of Pathways to Work services, the government must ensure that providers link up with local health services and offer the same quality of care as the NHS currently provides in the Pathways to Work pilot sites.”