Skip to main content

Mental Health

Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 1 November 2006

6. What Government policy is on the support employers should offer to those with severe mental health problems. (98415)

The Government believe that people with severe mental health problems have the same rights as other citizens and should be supported to manage or overcome their problems, especially if their needs are complex. We all have a role to play in challenging stigma. However, as is recognised in the social exclusion action plan, employers have a particular role and obligation to ensure that they do not discriminate, that our workplaces encourage mental well-being, and that employees are offered support if problems occur.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. With one in three people who visit a general practitioner’s surgery having a mental health problem, with one in five people likely to experience anxiety or depression during their lifetime, and with 40 per cent. of those on incapacity benefit having a mental health problem, employers play a critical role in ensuring that people can build stability into their lives and return to constructive employment. Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming BT’s initiatives and work to ensure that its staff have support if they experience mental health problems?

I support the important points that my hon. Friend has outlined relating to people’s well-being at work. The pathways to work pilots, with their strong local partnerships between Jobcentre Plus and the national health service, have been acknowledged internationally as the best way of helping people on incapacity benefit to get back into work quickly. The programme has been the most successful to date in getting people with mental health problems back into work. I hope that my hon. Friend and other colleagues will work locally to ensure that more of that happens in their areas—[Interruption.]

The Minister referred to the pathways to work pilots, but is she aware that the evaluation suggests that they have not been especially successful for people whose first reason for claiming benefit is their mental health? Will she thus consider what the Government’s response should be to the proposal of Lord Layard to increase substantially investment in cognitive behavioural therapy so that measures to help people with mental health problems back into work can be more effective?

The hon. Gentleman is right: it is more difficult to get people with mental health problems back into work than any other single group. That is why we are implementing pathways to work, which has been more successful than any other programme. It is also why we have been working with Richard Layard and others on the increased use of talking therapies so that we can ensure that more people do not get on to incapacity benefit. That strand of work is important. I am working with colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions and other Departments to ensure that we make the best of that and build capacity. A significant amount of work has already been done through the Department of Health to fulfil our manifesto commitment on the issue.