Access to Work Scheme

House of Lords written question – answered on 10th October 2008.

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Photo of Baroness Thomas of Winchester Baroness Thomas of Winchester Spokesperson in the Lords, Work & Pensions

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the Access to Work scheme can support those with mental health conditions.

Photo of Lord McKenzie of Luton Lord McKenzie of Luton Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Work and Pensions, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Work and Pensions) (also in the Department for Communities and Local Government)

Access to Work can help people with mental health conditions by providing a range of short-term or more regular support. This includes job coaches, personal mentors, advocates to provide help with negotiating and problem-solving skills, counsellors and support workers—for example, a travel buddy who would accompany the customer when travelling to and from work where the customer cannot manage travelling alone.

There are also other forms of Access to Work support that can assist those with mental health conditions. For example, if use of public transport triggered panic attacks and a travel buddy was not a suitable option, Access to Work could pay the additional costs arising from the use of taxis. If necessary, Access to Work could also provide indirect support by paying for awareness training to help a customer's colleagues to gain a better understanding of the customer's mental health condition.

The welfare reform Green Paper, No One Written Off—Reforming Welfare to Reward Responsibility, includes a proposal to increase Access to Work funding. Access to Work is looking at ways to use some of the funding to make the programme more responsive to the needs of those with mental health conditions. This includes exploring ways to assist the Department of Health increase the number of people with mental ill health working within the NHS and looking at how Access to Work may fit with their increasing access to psychological therapies programme. Access to Work has already begun to work more closely with national mental health organisations to explore ways of working together to deliver a more flexible approach in supporting both people with mental health conditions and their employers in the workplace.

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