Call for work programme re-think as mental health sufferers in Norfolk, Suffolk and the Fens remain out of work

Mind claims the Government needs to change the support it gives to people suffering from mental heal

Mind claims the Government needs to change the support it gives to people suffering from mental health problems Rui Vieira/PA Wire - Credit: PA

More specialist help is needed to get people suffering from mental health problems back into work, an influential charity has said as it emerged just 140 out of almost 2,400 people were found jobs.

The charity Mind claims that the Government work programme and job centre is making those suffering from mental health problems less able to work than when they started, as the schemes were 'ineffective'.

It comes as figures show in Broadland, South Norfolk and Suffolk Coastal, the Government failed to get anybody back to work.

Mark Harrison, chief executive of the Norfolk-based charity Equal Lives, said: 'The human cost of these failing programmes is too high as these failures have resulted in many deaths and suicides. The problems begin with the Work Capability Assessments carried out by Atos.

'These tests do not take account of mental health conditions in an appropriate way as Government advisers have pointed out. People are then inappropriately sent to private providers who have no specialist knowledge of mental health.

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'For the DWP it is not about the individual and removing the barriers to employment it is about statistics and saving money. The stress caused by these failings is actually damaging people's mental health and making things worse.'

But a DWP spokesman said: 'Mind are overlooking the fact that previous jobs schemes simply didn't do enough for people with mental health conditions.

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'Our Work Programme gives tailored support to each individual and is now helping turn around more lives than any previous scheme.

'It has already helped thousands of people with mental health conditions into work, instead of just writing people off on sickness benefits as often happened in the past.'

But Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: 'Just 5pc of people with mental health problems are being helped into work, while the vast majority tell us their health has worsened and they feel less able to work as a result of being on these schemes. It's perverse that programmes which are supposed to help those who are unwell and struggling to get into work are having the opposite effect, damaging their health.

'These schemes are not appropriate for people with mental health problems. If someone is out of work because of depression and anxiety, simply asking them to attend a CV writing course is a waste of time and money, as it doesn't address the real problems they are facing. Forcing people to engage in these activities, and cutting their benefits if they struggle to do so, is inappropriate and counter-productive. This approach assumes people don't want to work and the only way to motivate them is to withdraw financial support, which only causes greater anxiety and stress, and makes returning to work less likely.

'We need everyone who is out of work because of their mental health problem to be placed onto new, locally commissioned schemes which reflect individual and local needs. Such a scheme would take a personalised, tailored approach which really understands and addresses the complex nature of mental health problems and how they can impact someone's ability to find and keep a job.

'Most people with mental health problems who are out of work want to work and would be able to do so with the right support. Improving back-to-work support, including ensuring employers see the value in recruiting and supporting staff with experience of mental health problems, would help hundreds of thousands of people move into employment.'

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