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Discrimination: Mentally Ill

Volume 488: debated on Monday 23 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make it his policy to increase public funding aimed at reducing levels of discrimination on grounds of mental health. (253138)

We are committed to ending disability discrimination, including on the grounds of mental health, and are targeting resources in a number of areas to ensure that disabled people have the opportunity to benefit from the positive impact on health and well-being that work can bring.

Through the “Employ ability” programme, we are engaging with employers to improve their understanding of disability and their attitudes towards employing disabled people. Employ ability activity is aimed at small to medium-sized employers and is being rolled out to Scotland, Wales and seven English regions between 24 March 2008 and 27 February 2009. The Government have committed £4 million to the campaign.

Access to Work helps around 24,000 disabled people take up or stay in work annually by helping to fund specialist equipment, such as writing support software, reading rulers or a Job Coach who can work with the customer to help them develop strategies for organising their work. The Access to Work budget has been increased from £15 million in 1994-95 to £69 million in 2008-09. In the White Paper, “Raising Expectations and Increasing Support”, we made a commitment to double the budget for Access to Work. This will be a major expansion of the support we can offer to disabled people to help them get and sustain employment. We estimate that this could potentially double the number of people helped annually by 2013-14.

The Government’s response to Dame Carol Black’s review of the health of Britain’s working age population set out our plans to launch a range of initiatives to improve working age health and well-being, including mental health. These include the development of the first ever cross-Government National Mental Health and Employment Strategy which will bring employment and health services closer together, support employers and health care professionals and tackle issues such as discrimination and stigma.

We have also improved and strengthened the Disability Discrimination Act to provide disabled people with a full and comprehensive set of enforceable rights in all areas of life, including in employment. The Disability Discrimination Act provides protection from disability discrimination for anyone who meets the Act’s definition of a disabled person. A person with a mental health condition will therefore be covered by the provisions of the Act if the effect of their impairment meets the various elements of the definition.