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Psychologists' concern at new strategy for getting people with disabilities into work

30 November 2017

The government will help to get more disabled people into work in the next decade, the prime minister said today, as a new strategy was launched to break down employment barriers.

The strategy, called 'Improving Lives: the Future of Work, Health and Disability', builds on last year's work, health and disability green paper, which called for a comprehensive change to the UK's approach to disability employment.
Working with industry, government will be taking further steps to help disabled people and people with health conditions get into work, and remain and progress in their roles.
 
These include new measures such as widening 'fit note' certification and providing dedicated training for work coaches to support people with mental health conditions.
 
The prime minister said:
The path a person takes in life and in work should not be dictated by their disability or health condition. Everyone deserves the chance to find a job that's right for them.
 
I am committed to tackling the injustices facing disabled people who want to work, so that everyone can go as far as their talents will take them.
 
We recognise the hugely positive impact that working can have on people's health and wellbeing, which is why we are determined to break down the barriers to employment facing disabled people.
Dr Lisa Morrison Coulthard, the Society’s acting policy director, expressed concern at the new strategy:
 
While "meaningful activity" is mentioned briefly in the report, there is no recognition that basic functioning, family and community support are all positive activities that can contribute to improvements in an individual's wellbeing.
  
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.  
 
There is reference to Work Capability Assessment reform, but this once again stops far short of the end-to-end reform that is needed, focusing instead on looking at the delivery of the assessment rather than the assessment itself.
 
There is no reference to the need to consider the impact and efficacy of sanctions on individuals with mental health conditions
She said the Society does welcome the explicit inclusion of "neurodiverse conditions" and the commitment to supporting employers to establish more inclusive workplaces.
 
We also welcome the commitment to introducing training options for managers to provide greater initial support and guidance to help prevent individuals from falling out of work, she said, and the recognition of the role of the Health and Safety Executive in ensuring the duty of employers to assess and manage work-related mental health difficulties is a welcome development too.
 
The Society will continue to raise these concerns and the other key recommendation set out in our Psychology at Work: Improving wellbeing and productivity in the workplace report with the Secretary of State, his Ministers and the Joint Work and Health Unit. 

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