The Organisation forEconomic Co-operation and Development (OECD) haspublished a new report claiming that mental health issues cost the UK around £70billion every year, or roughly 4.5% of GDP, in lost productivity at work,benefit payments and health care expenditure. Better policies and practices byemployers and the health system are needed to help people deal with mentalhealth issues and get back to work, according to the OECD report.
MentalHealth and Work: The United Kingdom says that around one million claimantson Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and as many on Jobseeker’s Allowance(JSA) and other working-age benefits, have a mental disorder such as anxietyand depression that is hurting their prospects of finding work.
The reportrecommends that acting early is the best way to prevent poor mental healthleading to benefit dependency, both when people are still at work and early onduring the sick-leave period. The report finds that up to 370,000 Britons moveonto disability benefit every year (1% of the working-age population), thehighest rate in the developed world and twice the OECD average. The leadingcause for such benefit claims is mental illness, now accounting for around 40%of all new claims. If welfare cuts are to be made, they need to be matched byincreased efforts to address the barriers to finding and remaining in work,says the report.
The reportalso finds that the new Work Programme is struggling to place ESA and JSAclaimants with mental health problems into work. People with a mental illnesscontinue to fare badly compared to their counterparts without such illness:their unemployment rate is more than double the overall rate, and the risk offalling below the poverty threshold is almost double the overall risk. Indeed, the risk of poverty among people with mental health problems isthe highest in a comparison of ten OECD countries including seven otherEuropean countries, Australia and the US.
The reportconcludes that the majority of benefit claimants with mental health problemsneed a combination of health and employment interventions to improve theirchances of finding a suitable job. The health sector has increased services, sothat access to common mental health treatments is much better than it was fiveyears ago, but waiting lists are still too long in some parts of the country.Positive changes are also taking place to inform general practitioners aboutcommon mental disorders and return-to-work issues, but more systematic action indealing with workplace matters is needed through a revised training curriculum.
TheOECD recommends that the UK authorities:
- Ensure that the new Health and Work Service, announced to start in 2014, is implemented quickly and universally, with a strong focus on mental health and those still in work and with much stronger involvement of employers.
- Increase the attention to mental health and its impact on employability and work capacity in all parts of the welfare system.
- Increase resources and refine financial incentives for employment service providers to ensure better employment outcomes for customers with mental health problems.
- Build on recently improved integration of health and employment services to make sure that integrated health and employment interventions for those with mental health issues are widely available.
- Further expand access to psychological therapies for those with a common mental disorder.