NEWS: Government lays out 10 year disability and mental health employment strategy

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The government has published its strategy to get one million more disabled people in work over the next  ten years.

The document, which lists around 80 ‘actions’, shows how the government plans to help disabled people and those with mental health conditions get into work and also remain in and flourish in their roles.

The paper; Improving lives: the future of work, health and disability follows the 2016 green paper consultation, which called for a step change to the UK's approach to disability employment and it also contains the government’s responses to recommendations in the Stevenson-Farmer review on mental health.

In response to the disability consultation Work, health and disability: improving lives, the government has pledged to:

  • Improve advice and support for employers on recruiting, retaining and supporting disabled people and make advice more easily available
  • Identify the ‘key’ skills that line managers need to create inclusive and supportive workplace environments - cutting through the sometimes ‘confusing wealth of information’
  • Increase mental health support to meet ‘record numbers’ of people reporting mental health as their primary disabling condition – 37 per cent more in 2017 than in 2016
There has been a 37 per cent increase in people reporting mental health as their primary disability in 2017 compared with 2016. Photograph: iStock
  • Extend fit note certification powers to other healthcare professionals, such as physiotherapists, psychiatrists and senior nurses. Government says: "It is still the case that too many fit notes say ‘not fit for work’ when people ‘may be fit for work’ as long as appropriate workplace adjustments are made" and is considering this as one of several remedial actions. 

In response to the Stevenson-Farmer review on mental health, Thriving at Work, the government will:

  • Work with partners, including employers, to establish a framework approach for voluntary reporting on mental health and disability for large employers
  • Research and identify advice and support with employers covering a range of disabilities and long-term health conditions, including learning disabilities, as well as mental health and wellbeing
  • Bring together public sector leaders for a Work, Health and Disability Summit by spring 2018 to encourage the wider public sector to be leading employers on mental health support
  • Recognise the key role played by the Health and Safety Executive in assessing and managing work-related mental health difficulties
  • HSE to carry out all three recommendations made in the Stevenson/Farmer review – including to increase the focus on workplace mental health and safety during its inspections

Stakeholders were mixed in their responses to the paper. The British Psychological Society welcomed recognition of the role of HSE on mental health but not the thrust of the overall strategy.

Dr Lisa Morrison Coulthard, the Society’s acting policy director, commented: “The command statement continues to suggest that paid work is an essential ingredient of life, which reflects the needs of the benefits system and not the individual.”

Paul Farmer, CEO of Mind said: “We are pleased that the Government broadly welcomes the recommendations in the Stevenson-Farmer employment review’s report, Thriving at Work, which came out last month. We look forward to hearing more detailed plans about delivery, accountability and how success will be measured and evaluated.”

Mark Atkinson, Chief Executive of disability charity Scope, dismissed the government’s statement that the UK has near ‘record high’ employment levels including 600,000 more disabled people in the last four years alone.

He said: "For over a decade, the disability employment gap has remained static at 30 percentage points. 

"Today, too many disabled people continue to face barriers to entering, staying and progressing in employment, unable to fulfil their potential and participate fully in the UK economy.  
"The pledge to get a million more disabled people into work is an important gesture but today's publication needs to lead to swift action to make this a reality."

Government strategy Improving Lives: the future of work health and disability here 



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