Society has become much more informed about mental health challenges in recent years. This has been aided by celebrities drawing awareness to the topic in mainstream media coverage, NHS healthcare schemes and the growing number of mental health charities. By bringing the topic into popular discussion, mental health is now far from the stereotyped taboo subject it once was. However, there is room for further change.
The support presented for those with physical conditions with regards to financial government benefits, is relatively straightforward. This also applies to employment leave and pay. However, mental conditions carry varied and sometimes complex features. To be effective and relevant, it is fair to say that support for those with mental health challenges should be adapted.
The government is now piloting a new scheme through the Job Centre Plus to support those affected by mental conditions in employment. This recognises the need for contemporary ways of helping those affected by mental health conditions. It can help thousands of individuals into employment, and with help overcoming or managing their condition.
The scheme works by combining earlier treatment for individuals with mental health conditions with employment support. The NHS states that mental health conditions are effectively treated with a combination of treatments. It appears this scheme is using this same method by providing individuals with these two resources, which can complement one another to provide a strengthened outcome.
When an individual applies for financial support from the government if they are challenged with employment, they are required to take a work capability assessment to discover their eligibility to work. The new scheme provides better focus to mental health in this part of the process. The government has created a new mental health assessment to be carried out by a doctor or a healthcare professional. The outcome of this suggests recommendations for treatment. This is a great leap for the resource as it provides those affected by mental health conditions further, more detailed support with another avenue to access treatment.
Another change the scheme brings is its pledge to conduct these assessments earlier than before. This could help individuals remain in employment if they already have a job, and work to get unemployed individuals treatment and employment faster than before. This scheme is being trialed in order to detect the most effective programme, though suggested treatment includes talking therapies, group work ‘to build self-efficacy and resilience’ to the challenges involved in job seeking along with access to online help, local support and over the phone psychological and employment support. These ideas each show great scope for individuals affected by mental health, who can now feel that there is a network of facilities tailored to their needs.
Government officials have stated that the scheme remains in the ‘ideas stage’. Whilst speedy implementation may seem good, it could be said that these schemes are more effectively developed in this way through trial to detect what is successful for support seekers and what elements may create challenges. The initial trials are taking place in Durham and Tees Valley, Surrey and Sussex, Black Country and Midland Shires. Once piloted here the scheme can be implemented in larger communities and become available to more people and eventually the nation.
An additional productive element of the programme is its potential ability to reduce government spending – in the future we can look forward to treating mental illness constructively in a way that is beneficial to all instead of leaving the challenge unsupported. This scheme aids individuals affected along with the government and tax payers as a whole. Additionally, it promotes understanding and acceptance of mental illness and its complex intricacies, whilst recognizing that it should be taken as seriously as physical conditions, supporting individuals in gaining strength from their challenges. Whatever scheme is eventually proposed, Britain can now look forward to a nation whose institutions encompass mental health.
How would you design a mental health employment support scheme?