An NHS service helping people who are receiving mental health support with their employment will be rolled out nationally, the Government has announced.
Some £122 million is being invested to expand the service so people receiving help for common mental health problems have access to an employment adviser, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said.
The scheme involves therapists and employment advisers working together to help people with their mental health and to stay in work, return to their workplace or find a job easier and quicker.
It is currently fully operational in Cheshire and the Wirral, and over the next three years will be extended nationally, with around 700 employment advisers to be recruited and trained to support up to 100,000 people a year.
The DWP said there is strong evidence that being in work improves mental health, so supporting more people into work will both boost the economy and individuals’ prosperity.
Work and Pensions Secretary Chloe Smith said: “On World Mental Health Day, it is important to recognise the virtuous circle between health and work – we know that giving people the support they need to work is very good for their long-term health.
“The Government’s growth-focused agenda will deliver jobs, higher wages and greater opportunities – and I am delighted that people who have faced barriers to entering the workforce due to poor mental health will now be able to access support across England.
“Helping people access both clinical support for their mental health as well as employment advice gives them the tools they need to get into or return to work.
“This is vital to helping drive down inactivity and growing our economy so we can deliver more money and support for public services such as these.”
Health and Social Care Secretary and Deputy Prime Minister Therese Coffey said: “Good health and wellbeing of the nation is also good for the economic health of the nation and this Government is committed to supporting those not working due to ill health.”
Claire Murdoch, NHS national mental health director, said: “The NHS is committed to keep doing its part to support those with mental health issues who want to work, and offering employment advice from experienced advisers through our talking therapies services across the country is a fantastic and important development, especially in times of economic challenges and increased need for mental health support.”
Rethink Mental Illness said it is encouraging to see the initiative, which “recognises the challenges people face and offers targeted, therapeutic support to help them return to work”.
Deputy chief executive Brian Dow said: “It sits in sharp contrast to the more punitive approach of the benefits system, which can be so damaging to people’s mental health and in fact push them further away from employment.
“Meaningful work is just one cog in the whole wheel which is our mental health.
“The Government must work across its departments to ensure people have access to timely and appropriate care for mental illness, help with physical health, a secure place to call home, support with money worries and opportunities to form social connections with others.
“This is especially important amid a cost-of-living crisis which puts all these elements in peril.”
Sean Duggan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation’s mental health network, said the scheme is “welcome news”.
He said: “We know that having a job can be good for many people’s mental health but also recognise that employment can unfortunately be a source of stress and worry for people, so alongside this investment it is important that employers across the country do everything they can to support the wellbeing of their staff.”
He pointed out that more than a million people are on waiting lists for specialist mental healthcare and said it is “deeply worrying” that the Government’s long-term vision “remains a mystery”.