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Mental Health

Volume 619: debated on Monday 9 January 2017

10. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that people with mental health conditions are supported into work. (908064)

We are investing significant resources, including increasing coverage of Talking Therapy services by 600,000 people a year by 2020. Mental health is a key feature of our Green Paper “Improving Lives”, on which we are currently consulting. I thank Members on both sides of the House who came to our drop-in event on the Green Paper and who are helping with the consultation.

I welcome the Minister’s response and the Prime Minister’s intervention today on mental health. Does the Minister agree that in order better to support those with mental health conditions into the workplace, we need to transform the way we deliver mental health services for young people before they reach working age?

I agree with my hon. Friend absolutely. When I ask healthcare professionals who work in Department for Work and Pensions services what the single most significant transformative healthcare intervention would be, they say mental health support services for young people. The Prime Minister’s announcement on that was very welcome.

The “Five Year Forward View for Mental Health”, which was published a year ago, contained two specific recommendations for the Department for Work and Pensions, one of which was on employment support. Will the Minister update the House on the progress on that specific recommendation?

There were two targets, but the Department has set out a range of initiatives. Good progress has been made on all fronts, including the development of specific mental health support for the services we run, such as Access to Work. Considerable work has been going on, as the Prime Minister referred to earlier today, but she also said that we need to pick up the pace on this issue, and I agree with her absolutely.

The proposed closure of eight Glasgow job centres will result in increased travel times and introduce further barriers for people with mental health conditions who are seeking help to get into work. How will the Minister ensure that people with mental health conditions continue to receive the help that they need?

My hon. Friend the Minister for Employment has met all the MPs who are concerned about those locations across Glasgow, and my hon. Friend the Minister for Welfare Reform has met Scottish Ministers to discuss the issue. We are aware of the concerns that Members have raised. If the hon. Lady has any subsequent comments to make, she is more than welcome to have meetings with either me or my colleagues.

People with mental health conditions are more likely to fail the work capability assessment and more likely to be sanctioned. At the same time, we know from independent research how damaging work capability assessments and sanctions are for people’s mental health. The Prime Minister made her announcements today, but when will the Government take responsibility for the impact of their policies on mental health and ensure that timely, evidence-based support from trained mental health professionals is available for claimants with mental health conditions? Will the Secretary of State commit to scrapping the work capability assessment and punitive sanctions, as Labour has?

I refer the hon. Lady to three things: the Secretary of State’s reform speech in which he announced that his focus was on the particular issue of sanctions for people with mental health conditions; obviously, the Prime Minister’s statement today; and the Green Paper, a major tenet of which is that we are consulting on the work capability assessment—a Labour policy that is not delivering. I am very pleased that enormous numbers of Labour MPs came to our drop-in on this and will be helping us with the consultation. This is an important issue, and we should get it right.