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Mental Health: Absence from Work

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:21 pm on 17th October 2018.

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Photo of Nigel Adams Nigel Adams Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 5:21 pm, 17th October 2018

The hon. Lady makes a fair point. The need to travel hundreds of miles out of area, in some cases, for inpatient treatment is something that we desperately need to tackle, and we are tackling it. That is why we are putting in the investment. I gently remind her again of the additional £20 billion a year in real terms for the NHS over the next five years. Nobody is saying that this is a perfect situation, but we are matching our words with real-terms cash and investing a further £1.4 billion for mental health services for children and young people, which I am sure she would support.

We briefly mentioned the Stevenson-Farmer report, and I remind the hon. Lady that we responded in full through the “Improving Lives: the Future of Work, Health and Disability” Command Paper and fully supported all 40 recommendations of the Stevenson-Farmer review. Progress is being made, and has been made, on implementing those recommendations.

My hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire raised the role that the insurance industry can play. We recognise the positive aspects of group income protection for helping to retain sick employees, in particular access to expert-led health services and the financial certainty it offers individuals. I am not entirely sure that the product is widely known out there in the business space; I have run businesses for the last 20-odd years and was not aware that such insurance products were available. I very much hope that my former colleagues are tuned in at this precise moment and will do some research on it.

GIP is clearly a product that works well for those employees who choose to buy it, and we encourage the industry to continue to promote its benefits. I am sure the Association of British Insurers is doing a good job of that. However, we believe that small and medium-sized enterprises, in particular, lack sufficient incentives to invest in GIP as it is currently structured, because they often choose not to offer sick pay for periods beyond statutory requirements. That is why we have been looking more broadly at incentives and obligations on employers. We will continue to engage with the industry, and I know that the ABI will play a big role in that as well. We are listening closely to employers’ views about the appropriate products that retain the positive aspects of GIP and that overcome the existing barriers to increasing take-up.

By working with our partners, including employers, the Government can continue to tackle poor mental health, ensuring that disabled people, and people with physical and mental health conditions, go as far as their talents can take them.