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Discharged Hospital Patients (Assistance)

Volume 827: debated on Friday 3 December 1971

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asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will instruct his staff at employment exchanges to give special consideration and help to those applicants for employment who have been discharged from hospitals after treatment for nervous breakdowns and who are disadvantaged because of certain employers' prejudicies against former inmates of such hospitals; and if he will make a statement.

It is my view that such instructions are unnecessary. Anyone leaving hospital after a nervous breakdown who is handicapped in finding suitable employment is eligible for special help through my Department's disablement resettlement services. These include a special placement service and facilities for industrial rehabilitation or, if appropriate, for training. The placement officers, disablement resettlement officers, are carefully selected and trained. During their training, particular attention is given to the problems of returning to employment after a period of mental illness and the methods of preparing ex-psychiatric hospital patients for employment are studied. I am aware that some employers are prejudiced against ex-patients of psychiatric hospitals, but disablement resettlement officers do their best, by a personal approach in most cases, to allay any apprehension an employer might have. Nevertheless, it might not always be in the best interests of someone who had had a relatively minor breakdown and made a good recovery to over-emphasise his medical history. In such cases the disablement resettlement officer would have a supportive role as regards the ex-patient but would not be prominent in dealing with the potential employer.