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Good mental health: a world within reach …

I loved reading the Mental Health Foundation’s “A New Way Forward”, just published. It describes what a world with good mental health for all would look like, and sets out a “prevention revolution”.

Children, for example, would develop skills to understand their emotions, how to grow and keep healthy relationships and learn to deal with the changes and challenges of life. And those experiencing mental health issues would be confident to talk about it openly and expect support, without fear of stigma.

It’s inspiring stuff. It got me wondering if the revolution has already started. Not quite, says Mental Health Foundation: “This is not the world we live in but it is a world within reach given the right vision, champions and commitment…”

Impact of the Budget

So how does this week’s Emergency Budget demonstrate one other aspect of the vision, that “Government would understand the fundamental significance of mental health for their policies and would consider the mental health implications of their policies and budgets”?

Here’s one of the details in the Budget missed in most of yesterday’s headlines. From April 2017, anyone making a claim for the disability benefit Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) will receive a reduced level of benefit, equal to that of those claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA).

Benefit cuts affect people with Mental Health conditions

Now, almost half of Employment Support Allowance claims are from people applying primarily because of a mental health problem. There are currently about a quarter of a million people with mental health problems in the ESA-WRAG. It is hard to refute Mind’s prediction that reducing the amount provided to those in the Work Related Activity Group of Employment Support Allowance from about £5000 to £3500 a year will make people’s lives even more difficult and will do nothing to help them return to work.

Paul Farmer, Mind’s Chief Executive comments: “It is insulting and misguided to imply that ill and disabled people on ESA will be more likely to move into work if their benefits are cut. The vast majority of people with mental health problems want to work but face significant barriers as a result of the impact of their condition and the stigma they often face from employers.”

A world of good mental health within reach? A wonderful vision, but today that world feels a little further beyond our grasp.

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