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Mental Health

Volume 456: debated on Tuesday 6 February 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what estimate he has made of the incidence of fluctuating mental health conditions amongst (a) incapacity benefit claimants and (b) the general population in each of the last 10 years. (109977)

Any mental health condition can fluctuate, and most do; therefore estimates of the incidence of fluctuating conditions amongst Incapacity Benefit claimants and the general population are not meaningful. We recognise that many mental health conditions can vary in severity; and it is important to bear this in mind when assessing the effects of any mental health condition.

Medical diagnoses for people on incapacity benefit are based on the International Classification of Diseases and while this includes Mental and Behavioural Disorders the current version does not include a category relating specifically to fluctuating conditions.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what research has been carried out by his Department into the reasons for trends in the number of first time claimants of incapacity benefit due to mental ill health. (109978)

We are interested in learning more about people coming onto incapacity benefits. In 2006 the Department published “Routes onto incapacity benefits: findings from qualitative research” (DWP, Roy Sainsbury and Jacqueline Davidson (Research Report 350 available in the House of Commons Library)). This study is currently being complemented by a survey to pursue some of the findings further, and to generate findings that can be generalised to the wider incapacity benefits population. Fieldwork is in its final stages and we hope to publish findings in spring 2007.

The Department is particularly interested in those claiming incapacity benefits who have a mental health condition and it has recently embarked on a programme of work with this particular group. The programme will include exploring issues affecting those coming on to incapacity benefits who were previously in work.

The number of people coming onto incapacity benefits citing mental and behavioural disorders as their primary condition is down by 14,000 (6 per cent.) in the last year. Also, the number of people citing mental and behavioural disorders leaving these benefits has been increasing from 180,000 in 1997 to 219,000 in the last year.

From 2008, we are replacing incapacity benefits with a new employment and support allowance for all new claimants. The transformed personal capability assessment will allow us to fully assess the impact that a mental health condition has on an individual’s capability for work, based on the best evidence.

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions which employers are working with his Department to develop schemes to assist people with mental health problems (a) to remain in work and (b) to return to work; and what the (i) content, (ii) expected outcomes and (iii) methods of evaluation are of these schemes. (109979)

We are currently consulting with employer organisations such as the Employers Forum on Disability and the National Employment Panel, which are committed to increasing job opportunities for disabled people, including those with a mental health condition.

Alongside this work, the Chancellor announced, in his 2006 Budget, a review of policies needed to improve mental health and employment outcomes. As part of this ongoing review we are looking at how we can raise awareness of mental well-being among employers, improving the signposting of support and advice available to both employers and employees.