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7 Dec 2009 : Column 7WS

New Horizons: A Shared Vision for Mental Health

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Phil Hope): Today I am publishing "New Horizons: a shared vision for mental health". Mental health care in England has been transformed since the launch in 1999 of the national service framework for mental health. Significant and sustained increases in investment, an expansion of the workforce and a shift from hospital care to treatment in the community mean that our services are now recognised and admired internationally. It is time now to build on those achievements.

New Horizons represents an innovative dual approach: continued improvement to mental health services in England, coupled with ambitious cross-Government action for promoting public mental health and well-being. It is the product of close collaboration between Government Departments and with a coalition of leading stakeholders from local government, the professions and the third sector. It has also been the subject of extensive public consultation.

The guiding values of New Horizons, endorsed by the consultation response, are equality and justice; helping people to fulfil their potential and control their lives; and valuing relationships. It has six key themes:

Its publication marks the beginning of a process, not the end. New Horizons provides a platform for action across Government in the coming months and years. We are already putting this approach into action with the publication today of a suite of documents relating to the issue of mental health and employment. They are" Working our way to better mental health: a framework for action, alongside Work, Recovery and Inclusion" and "Realising ambitions: better employment support for people with a mental health condition". These are described more fully in the written ministerial statement made today by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

"New Horizons: a shared vision for mental health" has been placed in the Library and copies are available for hon. Members from the Vote Office.

Work and Pensions

Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council

The Minister for Pensions and the Ageing Society (Angela Eagle): The Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council was held on 30 November and 1 December 2009 in Brussels. I represented the United Kingdom on all employment and social policy items on 30 November, except for the intervention on gender equality: strengthening growth and employment, where the United Kingdom was represented by my right
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hon. Friend, the Leader of the House of Commons, Lord Privy Seal and Minister for Women and Equality. Health business was taken on 1 December 2009.

The first discussion and main item of the agenda was the Council policy debate on recovering from the financial crisis and preparing for the post-2010 Lisbon strategy. The presidency stressed that work was the best way out of social exclusion and also promoted health and wealth. I intervened to note the domestic measures taken by the UK to tackle the crisis, including the focus on minimising youth unemployment and keeping people close to the labour market, extra staff and funding for Jobcentre Plus and help for lone parents. I also underlined the need to learn from the mistakes of previous recessions, when the early retirement or placing on disability benefits of workers created significant long-term employment issues.

The second policy debate of the meeting was on gender equality, strengthening growth and employment. The presidency stressed the importance of equality issues being fully considered both in short-term responses to the recession and as part of the longer-term post-Lisbon strategy. For the UK, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Women and Equality, stressed the importance of recognising skills of men and women alike in the workplace, and believed that gender should be at the heart of the work of the EU, not just in terms of growth and employment policy but across the board. The Minister called for more joint working by women Ministers in order to put forward the gender equality agenda and looked ahead to the EU playing a strong role in the creation of the UN's new 'Gender Entity'.

The Council adopted Council conclusions on: promoting Labour market inclusion-recovering from the crisis and preparing for the post-2010 Lisbon strategy; healthy and dignified ageing; gender equality-strengthening growth and employment; and on the follow-up of the implementation by the member states and the EU institutions of the Beijing platform of action. The Council similarly endorsed Employment Committee and Social Protection Committee Opinions on the post-2010 Lisbon agenda.

Political agreement was reached unanimously by the Council on the revised social partner framework agreement on parental leave, and the ILO's Work in Fishing Convention, after the Commission circulated a minute statement clarifying that member states do not need to ratify this convention.

After some debate, the Council achieved political agreement on the directive on equal treatment of the self-employed and the directive was adopted by qualified majority. Hungary, Germany and the UK abstained: Hungary because of the legal base, the UK because of concerns that some aspects of the directive were not in line with the general principle that member states should decide how best to provide social protection, and Germany on both counts. The directive will now return to the European Parliament with a view to achieving a Second Reading agreement.

Finally, the Council also adopted without comment a progress report on implementing equal treatment between persons irrespective of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation (the anti-discrimination directive).

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Under other business, the presidency and the Czech delegation summarised several recent conferences and the Spanish delegation outlined the central themes of their presidency, noting that job creation and social cohesion would be among them.

There was no formal discussion over lunch.

Work and Pensions

Mental Health and Employment

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Yvette Cooper): Today, the Secretary of State for Health and I are announcing a number of publications on the subject of mental ill health and employment.

Mental ill health presents a major challenge to our society. As well as the devastating impact it can have on individuals and their families, mental ill health costs the economy between £30 billion and £40 billion through lost production, sick pay, NHS treatment and unemployment. It is now also the most common reason for claiming health-related benefits.

The Government are determined to support individuals and families and tackle these costs. Improving mental health at work and boosting the employment chances of people with mental health conditions are central to our approach. Taking part in well-managed work can help to develop people's mental health, resilience and well-being. We must ensure that more workplaces support their employees to do this and provide joined-up services to help people with mental health conditions to find and stay in employment.

Our first publication, "Working Our Way to Better Mental Health: a Framework for Action" is the first
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mental health and employment strategy for the whole of Great Britain. It sets out a practical approach to achieving the twin aims of increasing well-being at work for everyone and improving employment outcomes for people with mental health conditions. It has been developed with the assistance of a group of independent experts, including mental health specialists, senior academics and representatives from business and third sector organisations, chaired by Dame Carol Black, the National Director for Health and Work. The document was developed in partnership with the devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales.

We are also publishing today an independent review commissioned by DWP and led by Dr. Rachel Perkins of South-West London and St. George's Mental Health Trust. Her review, "Realising Ambitions: Better employment support for people with a mental health condition", describes how we can strengthen employment, health and wider state support to help people with mental conditions who are out of work.

Our third publication, "Work Recovery and Inclusion" is a cross-Government delivery plan for England setting out a high-level vision and series of commitments to support those people in contact with secondary mental health services into work. It forms part of the UK Government response to the Perkins review.

Acting on employment and mental health must be a long-term commitment. These publications support the objectives of "New Horizons: a shared vision for mental health" in England that is also published today. Taken together, our ambitions will influence future policy development across Governments and throughout the wider public sector, and bring about changes in behaviour in organisations and individuals. In so doing, they signal a long-term commitment to joint working between Government and their partners.

Copies of all the documents will be available later today in the Vote Office.

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