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Tackling unemployment and mental health.

Posted on: 5th Mar 2015

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In the run-up to the General Election this May, the charity Mind has highlighted the need for better back-to-work support for people with mental health problems.  Politicians are being urged to take action early in the new parliament to bring in programmes which are genuinely supportive rather than leaving vulnerable people feeling let down and misunderstood.   The evidence from Mind’s report, We’ve got Work to Do shows that the Work Programme and Job Centre Plus are failing to get people back into work, and actually make things worse for individuals already struggling with depression, stress and anxiety.

Mind argues strongly for person-centred services to replace the generic government back-to-work programmes where a one-size-fits-all approach is not working for people with mental health problems.  Poor training means that staff have poor understanding of mental health problems and the number of specialist Disability Employment Advisors has fallen by 30% in the past 3 years. The standard courses on offer are simply inappropriate and Mind believes that more specialist schemes are needed for people with mental health problems.

It’s obviously no surprise to Eureka that people with mental health difficulties need carefully tailored programmes which offer more than basic job-seeking skills, and support them in ways which take full account of the impact of mental health problems on people’s lives.  We’ve built up expertise in psychologically-informed approaches to building up job readiness, and know how important it is to treat people with respect and care.  Our courses are delivered on a local basis and participants are encouraged to take responsibility for identifying their own support needs.

Importantly, Mind points out that “the success of back-to-work support should not just be judged on whether it finds someone a job or not, but also on the wellbeing of that person.” That’s something we certainly recognise – and we celebrate when a Eureka course participant goes on to seek therapy for an eating disorder they’ve denied for years, or moves into their own flat after years of sleeping rough in a tent and struggling with alcoholism.

Whoever is in power after May, let’s hope there will be real political support for back-to-work programmes which treat unemployed people as the complex human beings we all are, and which recognise that tackling mental health problems can be a critical foundation for progress  in life in general and employment specifically.