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Employment: Mental Health

Volume 624: debated on Monday 27 March 2017

6. What steps the Government are taking to ensure that employers are encouraged to recruit and retain people with mental health conditions. (909478)

We are making progress on the independent mental health and employers review, which is led by Lord Stevenson and Paul Farmer. We are also taking forward an internal review of discrimination law in relation to mental health and work. We continue to look at how we can improve employment support for people with mental health conditions, and this approach is reflected in the work and health Green Paper.

I recently trained as a mental health first-aider. Such training helps people to support others with mental health problems, as well as to look after their own mental health. Will my right hon. Friend encourage more employers to take part in initiatives such as mental health first aid to create a culture in which everyone feels able to seek mental health support in the workplace?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on taking that training, which is very important. She is right that more employers should act. We are now providing a range of support to help employers to recruit and retain people with mental health conditions, including the Disability Confident campaign and the mental health support service in the Access to Work scheme, which many firms and those who suffer from mental health conditions find useful.

The Secretary of State should beware of being so enthusiastic that he ignores the real needs of people who cannot go to work. I had an email this morning from one of my constituents saying that her husband had taken his life on Friday. He first came to us in 2016 when his award of employment and support allowance was under review. Despite his doctor’s protest, he was made to have a face-to-face assessment. We sought an extension of the six-month award; that was refused. At that point, he was so stressed that he attempted suicide. The PIP award was reviewed again in January. Will the Secretary of State please ensure that when doctors say that people with mental health conditions should not have face-to-face assessments, they do not have face-to-face assessments?

The case that the hon. Lady raises is clearly dreadful. I am sure that the whole House will want to send condolences to the family and friends of her constituent, particularly his widow. We are, of course, not just investing more in mental health than ever before—£11 billion this year—but succeeding specifically in improving clinical assessments. More clinical expertise is now available to the assessors who look at individual cases. As she will know, we have now ended reassessment for those who have conditions that can only stay the same or get worse. We are taking steps to try to minimise those effects.

22. Ensuring that people with mental health conditions are able to start businesses and also remain in business is very important. What is the Minister doing to encourage employers to make that a possibility? (909495)

My hon. Friend is right. We are taking action through Access to Work and Disability Confident, which I mentioned in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately), but this needs to be part of a much wider programme of education specifically for employers. We have set up a Disability Confident business leaders group because I suspect that employers will listen more to other business people than they necessarily will to politicians.

Is not the main issue to make sure that people have good access to occupational health services—particularly so that preventive action can be taken if an individual feels that they are suffering from a mental health problem—meaning that they can get to an occupational health service quickly and easily to get proper advice?

I completely agree with the right hon. Lady. She will have seen that the work and health Green Paper lays great stress on occupational health services. We have more than doubled the number of employment advisers in talking therapies to make sure that we can help people with the necessary support that will enable them to stay in work. We will need to do more of this important job in the future.