A government minister has branded employers ‘decades out of date’ when it comes to their attitudes towards mental health.
Jim Murphy, the minister for employment and welfare reform, was announcing the publication of the Personal Capability Assessment review (PCA).
He said: “In terms of mental health we are still lagging behind the progress we have made on entrenching the rights of people with disabilities in the work place.
“We know through surveys that almost half of employers believe there are difficulties in employing a person with clinical depression and that increases to almost three-quarters as regards schizophrenia.
“These attitudes are decades out of date – people with mental health problems today are facing the same kind of attitude from employers that people with a physical disability too often faced in the 1950s and 1960s.
“We have made great progress in extending disability rights since then but people with mental health conditions face some of the most extreme disadvantages, not least when it comes to the world of work.
“Change is needed if the PCA is to provide the help that incapacity benefits claimants need. We need to be able to help people with mental health illnesses, because the facts are nearly 50 per cent of people with a physical disability are now in work while 67 per cent of people who cite mental illness as their main disability are not.”
With 40 per cent of today’s incapacity benefits claimants having a mental health condition, the Department for Work and Pensions has announced changes to the PCA which include re-focusing its approach to mental health.
The minister confirmed that following a review of the test that assesses whether an individual is eligible for incapacity benefit, the department is to accept a series of recommendations that include giving mental health the same importance as physical disabilities.
This means the PCA will include a new assessment, looking at what an individual can do and what interventions would help to break down barriers preventing them from working. It will reflect the changing expectations about what work people can do with a relatively minor level of disability.
Ultimately the review will look at the feasibility of moving to a single mental and physical assessment.