Memorandum submitted by Training and Guidance
in Skye and Lochalsh
Training and Guidance in Skye and Lochalsh is
an outreach project of TAG NHS Highland which has 12 years experience
of working with people who are recovering from mental health problems.
The aim of the project is to support our trainees through courses
which will enhance their self-esteem, encourage them to get back
to work, or to go on to further study, or voluntary work. We have
a reasonable success rate, bearing in mind that some of our trainees
have severe and enduring mental illness and are not usually expected
to be able to be part of a workforce.
Many people with a mental illness are deeply
concerned by the new proposals within the new Welfare Reform proposals.
The compulsion to look for and prepare for work is especially
The Personal Capability Test that will determine
what people can do must allow for some flexibility. People who
suffer from mental illness can be well one day and be in a crisis
the next day. The compulsion to look for and prepare for work
may put many people in a crisis. Many people who suffer mental
ill health have difficulties with everyday existence. A minor
problem to a normal person can be a crisis for someone with a
mental illness. The Benefits Medical Agency Services GPs who conduct
the Personal Capability Assessments lack specialist health knowledge.
Specialists in mental health must be employed in assessments for
the complex health issues that claimants with mental ill health
face on a daily basis.
There needs to be massive investment in Mental
Health provision throughout the United Kingdom. The current level
of investment is very inadequate. Waiting lists are too long.
The help and support provided is often short and minimal. Over
one-third of Incapacity Benefit claimants have mental health problems.
The Government must invest heavily to improve the mental health
provision. The most effective treatment for many mental health
problems is cognitive behaviour therapy. So why is this particular
therapy virtually impossible to obtain?
The cross-section of people that will be compelled
to prepare and look for work will range from people with mild
conditions to severe conditions eg suicide attempts because of
pressure. Suicide attempts in Highland are three times the UK
The stigma surrounding mental health is widespread.
Indeed 25% of the population do not believe mental illness exists!
And yet, according to government health statistics, one in four
people currently suffer from mental illness
The national media is unhelpful by targeting
benefit claimants as scroungers and frauds. Much of society obtains
their information about the world through the national media.
Negative media coverage of disabled people and people receiving
incapacity & disability benefit must be challenged.
Much more must be done to challenge stigma in
society. National advertising campaigns; disability awareness
in and out of the work place. Disability awareness provided to
all employees across the country. Widespread publicity that challenges
disability and mental health stigma in every corner of society.
Occupational Health must be widely available
both in and out with the work place. More investment in the NHS
to provide a broader range of health support to incapacity benefit
Benefits Agency and Job Centre staff (at all
levels) to be given comprehensive and detailed training in all
areas of disability awareness. Benefits Agency staff must be friendly
and supportive to claimants at all times. That all information
relevant to the claimant be given freely without the claimant
having to ask for it.
Many people receiving Incapacity Benefit would
like to return to work at some point. Many are put off by the
complexities of the benefits system and unhelpful benefits staff
that provide the minimal of basic guidance. Many are afraid to
undertake voluntary work for fear of losing their benefits. The
benefits system is far too complex and inflexible to allow IB
claimants to try out work confidently.
Professionals must trust claimants much more
and be guided by their experiences and knowledge of their illness.
There is a general lack of awareness and information
available for claimants to make informed choices and decisions.
The under investment and lack of mental health services (NHS and
non-NHS) only compounds problems.
Incapacity Benefit claimants:
are not "the problem"they
must be part of the solution;
hold the key to solutions in
their experience and knowledge; and
have a right to the information
they need to make informed choices about their lives.
Kenneth MacKenzie and