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Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
March 9, 2010

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Workplace support scheme targets people with mental-health disabilities

Too few people with severe mental-health conditions are receiving funding from the Government’s Access to Work programme.

The scheme, which has been running since 1994, is designed for people with long-term health conditions or impairments who need extra practical support to help them in their work. The type of support the programme offers includes: special aids and equipment; adaptations to premises and equipment; travel-to-work grants; support workers; and communicator support at job-interview stage.

Last year, the scheme helped 32,000 people but fewer than 1 per cent of these individuals gave mental health as their main condition.

Consequently, the Government has pledged to reshape the Access to Work programme to ensure it meets the needs of people with mental-health problems more efficiently. From April this year, 2000 people with learning disabilities and up to 1500 people with mental-health conditions will be guaranteed places on the programme to help them stay in work.

Further support through Access to Work includes: more personalised help; more frequent reviews, offering a pre-certificate for job-seekers to show they would, in principle, be eligible for help; part-funding replacement cover for temporary leave on account of mental ill-health, or fluctuating conditions; and extending support for job coaches, aimed primarily at people with learning disabilities.

Last year, the Government announced it would double the Access to Work budget to £138 million by 2013/14.

Announcing the new developments, minister for disabled persons Jonathan Shaw said: “Last year, Access to Work helped more than 32,000 people, and this number will continue to grow as the programme budget grows. But we know that a disappointingly low number of people with severe mental-health conditions, or learning disabilities are getting this funding, which would help them stay at work.

“People with mental-health and learning disabilities face complex barriers, finding it difficult to get into and stay in work, and we recognise we need to do more to help them. But we know that by setting these ambitious targets and doubling the Access to Work budget, we will make sure that even more help reaches those who need it.”

Antonia Borneo, policy manager at mental-health charity Rethink, said that many employers are either unaware that the grant exists, or do not understand how to use it for people with mental-health problems. She added that more needs to be done in general to help people with mental illness get into and stay in work, and called for anti-stigma campaigns to reduce workplace discrimination against staff with mental-health issues.

However, she also welcomed the reshaping of the programme in making it “more relevant for people mental-health problems, such as the pre-certificate for jobseekers, which should help employers feel more confident about introducing reasonable adjustments”.

What makes us susceptible to burnout?

In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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