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Reform urgently needed to social security and employment support for people with mental health problems: new research report

06 November 2020

Social security and employment support provision in Scotland and the wider UK “do not effectively recognise mental health” a  new University of Glasgow research report has found.

As a result, the report – co-produced with the social security and mental health organisations including Poverty Alliance, Inclusion Scotland and Mind - makes a series of detailed recommendations to help support people with mental health problems in entering, maintaining, and returning to work.

The new report - Mental health, welfare conditionality and employment support highlights three key concerns:

  • the use of sanctions is ineffective and can exacerbate mental health problems;
  • welfare conditionality gives little or no consideration to mental health problems and should not have been reinstated during the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • claimants with mental health problems are not effectively supported by existing employment services.

Key recommendations proposed by the researchers are:

  • build a trusted and transparent social security system, where people with mental health problems are not subject to a one-size-fits-all approach to conditionality;
  • provide personalised support and improve the experiences of people with mental health problems in Jobcentre Plus;
  • UK and Scottish Governments should provide sustainable investment to evidence-based, personalised employability interventions for people with mental health problems. Specifically, Individual Placement and Support services should be fully integrated into UK and Scottish employability provision.

Professor Sharon Wright of the research project team said:

“Reform is urgently needed to the current provision of employment support for people with mental health problems across the UK.

Mental health needs to be better recognised in our social security system and people with mental health problems need much more support without the fear of losing entitlement.

The Health Foundation funded research that informs the recommendations finds that there are huge discrepancies between the UK’s policy statements and the actual experience of people with mental health problems.

Despite being increasingly present in policy documents, mental health remains invalidated within the welfare system.

Furthermore, the experience of welfare conditionality among people with mental health problems is largely negative. The pressures arising from conditionality and its disempowering nature are likely to exacerbate mental health problems.”

Mental health, welfare conditionality and employment support is available from www.gla.ac.uk.