Mental health stigma persists in Britain's workplaces, MP warns

29 December 2013

Paul Burstow MP, Chair of the CentreForum Mental Health Commission, urges action on "jobs gap" affecting people with mental health problems
New survey data adds weight to government findings on persistence of mental health stigma in the workplace

Workplace stigma remains a significant worry for people with mental health problems, new research shows.

Survey data collected by the CentreForum Mental Health Commission paints a troubling picture of mental health service users' experience of employment.

  • 63% of respondents said they had been treated unfairly in finding a job.
  • 65% said they were concerned about what people at work may think, say or do if their mental health condition became known.
  • 75% said they had stopped themselves from applying for work for fear of how potential employers might respond to their mental health condition.
  • 84% said they had stopped or delayed receiving professional care for a mental health problem over concern it would harm their chances when applying for jobs. Nearly half (49%) had done this a lot.
  • 61% reported they had stopped themselves applying for education or training courses.

These findings add weight to government research published in early December. The government's first 'mental health dashboard' stressed that stigma around mental health problems has yet to be booted out of the workplace, and the consequences are severe.

It found that the cost of mental health to business is just over £1,000 per employee, or almost £26 billion across the UK economy, each year. But it added that more effective management of mental health at work could save around 30% of these costs.

Paul Burstow MP, Chair of the CentreForum Mental Health Commission and former Care Services Minister, said:

"People living with severe and enduring mental illness get a raw deal. A 20 year gap in life expectancy is the result of NHS neglect of their physical health needs. Just as worrying is their experience of employment with many more people wanting to work than do. This jobs gap can be tackled with practical help."

In response to its survey findings, the CentreForum Mental Health Commission makes three cost neutral recommendations:

  • Central government departments and agencies should be required to meet the best employer practice in regards to mental health. They should be required to join the Time for Change campaign and the Mindful Employer scheme forthwith. Some have already signed up, but all should be compelled to do so.
  • Commitments already in place to require front line contractors to sign up to mental health schemes should be extended to all employers seeking to deliver contracted services tendered by government.
  • Government should place added pressure on local authorities to introduce similar requirements on existing and prospective employers within the formal tendering processes they adopt.

NOTES TO EDITOR

* CentreForum's Call for Evidence factsheet can be accessed here.

** Mindful Employer was developed by employers in Exeter and launched in 2004. It is run by Workways, a service of Devon Partnership NHS Trust. For more information, visit www.mindfulemployer.net

Immigration policy a nightmare for UK business, says think tank

23 December 2013

Current immigration policy is choking business growth for zero political gain, a new report from CentreForum warns.

In the first of three publications aimed at setting a 'liberal' immigration agenda for 2015, the think tank urges the next government to focus on the quality, not quantity, of skilled workers coming to Britain from outside the European Union.

The report joins calls to scrap the Conservative led policy of reducing net migration to "the tens of thousands each year". It says this policy is impossible to fulfil, aggravates distrust in the immigration system and makes it harder for businesses to employ the "brightest and the best". Migrant groups that the government finds it easiest to restrict are those that cause the public least concern, it adds.

In a bid to identify how non-EU migration can be better managed, CentreForum undertook research with business, trade associations and unions. Set out in the report are a number of ideas for cutting red tape, promoting jobs, exports and growth, and making the immigration system more customer friendly.

However, one of the main complaints respondents raised was the "permanent revolution" in immigration policy. The report therefore urges a moratorium on immigration changes, at least until after the 2015 election, so that the system can bed down and businesses can get used to current rules.

In addition, the report pushes for changes in the way immigration statistics are gathered to get a clearer picture of arrivals and departures. It says the use of the International Passenger Survey to estimate numbers of migrants is particularly hopeless, and the government must improve data collection to generate accurate and comprehensive migration statistics.

It argues that students and migrants on intra company transfers, who are not seeking indefinite leave to remain in the UK, should be removed from the figures.

Tom Papworth, report author and Associate Director, Economic Policy, at CentreForum said:

"The government's immigration policy is at odds with its ambition to grow the economy, create jobs and shrink the deficit. It needs to focus on quality, rather than quantity. It has a duty to collect accurate, reliable statistics. And it needs to reverse the poor customer service and bad policy design that is harming UK competitiveness."

"Having done so, the government needs to stop and allow businesses to catch their breath. The permanent revolution in immigration policy is a nightmare for businesses seeking to comply with the rules."

NOTES TO EDITOR

The report 'The business case for immigration reform' by Tom Papworth is available via this link.

FE colleges failing disadvantaged learners

11 December 2013

Further education colleges must do more to help underachieving school leavers pass GCSE English and maths, according to a new report from CentreForum.

‘Smarter accountability in Further Education’ suggests that colleges are uniquely placed to be “engines of social mobility” as many of their learners come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have left school with poor literacy and numeracy skills. Yet it finds that colleges are not currently fulfilling this role.

The report warns that the new requirement for 16-18 year olds to continue studying English and maths if they achieve less than C grade risks being a “tick box exercise”. This is because the government has excluded literacy and numeracy from the top line performance measures for post-16 education, it says.

The report argues that, while their remit is unavoidably wide, colleges’ attention must be fixed on individuals who have fallen behind in English and maths. It says that helping these individuals catch up by the time they leave college will strengthen their chances of getting a job.

To that end, the report urges the government to rethink its approach to accountability in further education and make English and maths GCSE results a key performance measure for colleges. It calls on Ofsted to be much tougher on colleges that fall short on improving learners’ literacy and numeracy skills. Colleges that operate in areas with a high NEET* rate should be not be considered as 'good' or 'outstanding' by Ofsted, the report says.

The report also calls for stronger links to be established between colleges and the business community, and for businesses to step in when a college is shown to be underperforming. It points to earlier CentreForum research which stressed the importance of bringing industry into the classroom to equip learners with the skills needed for employment.

Sam Cannicott, report author and CentreForum research associate, said:

“The government is right to expect young people without good GCSEs in English and maths to continue studying these subjects. But the new accountability measures fall short. It is the top line measures that will drive colleges' behaviour, yet literacy and numeracy provision is excluded from them. There is a now a risk that the new requirement could turn out to be little more than a tick box exercise.”

“For many young people, colleges provide the last opportunity to develop their English and maths skills to the levels expected by employers. For that reason, colleges have what is essentially a moral responsibility to focus on delivering excellent provision in these areas.”

*NEET (Not in education, employment or training)

NOTES

The CentreForum report ‘Smarter accountability in Further Education’ by Sam Cannicott is available here.

CentreForum is an independent public policy think tank and Prospect Magazine's UK Economic and Financial Think Tank of the Year 2013.

Greater clarity needed in long term infrastructure funding to boost private sector involvement, says CentreForum

2 December 2013

- Think tank report shows that concerns exist over insufficient user and taxpayer funding to sustain infrastructure projects over their life cycle, rather than a lack of private sector capital

- The report recommends that the published list of infrastructure projects promoted by government is reviewed and amended to deliver greater clarity around how projects are to be funded and to help investors make choices about their financial involvement. 

A new report from CentreForum urges the government to be clearer when calculating and communicating its national infrastructure programme. It says the current ‘wish list’ of projects, which infrastructure minister Lord Deighton has been asked to convert into a programme, is in danger of sending the wrong signals to investors, who are not confident that projects will get long term funding.

The problem, the report argues, is not caused by a lack of private sector financing for the initial phase of infrastructure projects, but by a perception in the minds of some investors that there is insufficient user and taxpayer funding to sustain these projects over their life cycle.

CentreForum’s research did not come across an example of a single funded, well structured infrastructure project in the UK which failed to get off the ground through lack of financing. Indeed, it found that institutions are actually queuing up to invest in good, funded projects.

In 2010, the coalition government planned to raise infrastructure spending levels to £200 billion over the course of the parliament. To ensure that the government meets this level of sustained investment, greater clarity is needed around how projects are to be funded to help investors make choices about their financial involvement.

Lord Deighton’s infrastructure programme is expected to be announced at the time of the Autumn Statement on 5 December.

Quentin Maxwell-Jackson, report author and CentreForum Research Associate, said:

“It’s time for the government to inject much more realism into the UK’s infrastructure plans. That means making it absolutely clear how essential infrastructure projects are going to be paid for, and prioritising projects so that we get the greatest benefit from what we can afford to pay.”

NOTES TO EDITOR

'Build the infrastructure, bin the wish list' can be downloaded here. The report recommends

1. That the forthcoming revised UK infrastructure programme needs to:

- be clearer about what the UK can afford to fund;

- prioritise projects to meet UK needs;

- take a system wide approach to priorities, including opportunity costs.

2. Look to use Tax Incremental Financing more so that those who benefit from infrastructure investment bear some of the costs of construction.

3. Increase user charging in sectors such as road transport where these are easily captured.

4. Continue to improve the efficiency of government procurement and infrastructure development.

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