We welcome plans to invest more in NHS Talking Therapies and provide additional support for people with severe mental illnesses to find work, announced by the Government in its Back to Work Plan.

In its plan the Government has committed to increase the number of people benefitting from NHS Talking Therapies by an additional 384,000 over the next five years and increasing the number of sessions available. They will also aim to support an additional 100,000 people with severe mental illness find and keep jobs over the next five years via their Individual Placement and Support scheme.

But we’re concerned that the plan also includes the strengthening of the sanctions system.

Concern over sanctions

Our Head of Policy Martin Bell said: “The psychological and health benefits of secure and decently paid work are well documented. Unemployment can significantly increase symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as leaving people with reduced feelings of wellbeing and self-esteem.

“Most people with mental health conditions that are unemployed want to work. Anyone living with a mental health condition has a right to be supported to work if they want to.

“So, we’re pleased to see the Government’s Back to Work plan includes measures to help those with mental health conditions stay in or find work including a commitment to an increase in the number of people who will benefit from NHS Talking Therapies.

“However, we’re concerned about the strengthening of benefit sanctions. There is no clear evidence that the threat of sanctions is effective.  However, there is evidence to say sanctions have a negative impact on people's wellbeing and mental health.

“No one with a mental health condition should ever be mandated to look for work, or to face the threat of having their benefit payments reduced.

“So, we urge the Government to consider the wider mental health impact of these proposed changes.”

The upcoming Autumn Statement provides an opportunity for the Chancellor to supplement these announcements, with additional support for employers and employees.

Our consultation response

Through a recent consultation response, we called on the Government to introduce national standards in workforce health to support people currently on long term sickness who want to get back to work.

This action could help many of the 1.35 million people not currently working because of mental health conditions, including depression or anxiety.1

We’ve also urged the Government to boost the uptake of occupational health provision, particularly to support small or medium-sized enterprise (SMEs), by providing subsidies and reducing the tax burdens that currently limit the uptake of interventions, including workplace counselling and other services provided through Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs).


1. Office of National Statistics