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Mental Health

Volume 460: debated on Wednesday 9 May 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Skills what measures he is taking to promote actively the employment within (a) his Department and (b) public sector bodies for whom he has responsibility of people with mental illnesses in line with the advice and codes of practice produced by the Disability Rights Commission. (117081)

Under the Disability Equality Duty introduced by the Disability Discrimination Act 2005, the Department and the public sector bodies for which I am responsible are required to publish and implement a Disability Equality Scheme. These are plans setting out how we will carry out the Disability Equality Duty, monitor and report on progress. In particular this includes our arrangements for gathering information on the effect of our policies and practices on the recruitment, development and retention of our disabled employees, including those with mental health conditions, and making use of that information.

The Department, and the public sector bodies for which I am responsible, also have duties under the employment provisions in Part 2 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 not to discriminate against, and to make reasonable adjustments for, disabled job applicants and employees. The arrangements are set out in the Department’s Disability Equality Scheme which is a matter of public record.

In addition, specifically on mental health, the Department will be launching a stress policy, and are working closely with ‘Action on Stigma’, the Department of Health led initiative to promote and sustain employment for people with mental illness.

The public sector bodies sponsored by the Department that are subject to these requirements are responsible for publishing and implementing their own Disability Equality Schemes.

Action the Department is taking includes; an internal guide which describes how individuals and managers can manage and support mental health issues in the workplace, including sources of support for new joiners and existing employees; a stress policy based on the HSE Stress Management Standards; a 24/7 Employee Assistance provider who will provide telephone advice or 1:1 counselling; health fairs where material on mental health issues supplied by our local primary care trusts was distributed; and no pre-screening for health prior to recruitment or appointment with a guarantee that a person’s health status does not form part of the selection process.