mental health problems will not be forced to work, says minister
by Staff Reporter
with mental health problems will not be driven into crisis by being
forced into the labour market, the government has promised.
Last month a new employment and support allowance (ESA) replaced
incapacity benefit. New claimants will have to undergo a "work
capability assessment". This will include a medical assessment.
who have not worked for years because of long-standing problems
could have to start looking for jobs as the new scheme is rolled
out to the 2.5 million on incapacity benefit, around 40 per cent
of whom have mental health problems.
McGuire, the minister for disabled people, has promised that "safeguards”
will be in place to ensure people with mental health problems are
not forced to take up inappropriate or unsupported work.
Her pledge follows campaigners' fears that such people will be shifted
to the less-generous job-seekers allowance, or made to find jobs
which are excessively demanding or with unsupportive or prejudiced
bosses. This, in turn, could throw a person into crisis.
But Ms McGuire said the ESA assessment "focuses on what people
can do, not what they can't."
"People who fall into the 'support group' of ESA will get a
higher rate of benefit and will not face any sanctions," she
wrote in a letter on Monday to a national newspaper.
"For everyone else on ESA, it is reasonable to expect claimants
to engage with our work programmes.
"If they don't they could lose some of their benefits, but
not all. There are safeguards in place and no one will be forced
to take up work which isn't suitable for them....We are also looking
at ways of providing better support while they're in work.
"These historic reforms are about ensuring another generation
of disabled people are not abandoned, as they were in the early
A study of 279 people reported by the charity Mind reported that,
after disclosing a mental health problem, 31% of people were sacked
or forced out of a job, 26% were demoted and one in four had job
Hilary Caprani, a spokeswoman from the charity Rethink, says: "There
should be a culture of openness about mental health in the workplace
and employers should provide support, for example, through flexible
working or access to regular supervision and appraisals to discuss
ESA's principle is that "everyone should have the opportunity
to work" and that those with an illness or disability should
get adequate support to work.
wants employers to carry out mental health risk assessments of their
workplaces, policies and practices, and for employees to have a
right to request flexible working on mental health grounds and to
qualify for disability leave.
doesn't always mean work
Hilary Pegg, survivor researcher, Norfolk, UK
November 26, 2008
This sounds reassuring. The recovery concept is supposed to imply
people previously stigmatised should be enabled to do 'meaningful
activity' which is not necessarily going back into paid employment.
I managed to do an MSc by Research over four years but I wouldn't
be able to become a full-time researcher. I am advised to avoid
stress and frankly most full time jobs at my level are stressful.
Unstressful jobs tend to be low skilled which would not suit my
educational background and interests.
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