Today; Tuesday 10 October marks World Mental Health Day. In the past few years, policy-makers in Britain have increasingly begun to recognise the importance of work as a health outcome, both to the economy and to the individual’s quality of life. This is something at the forefront of Prospect’s core beliefs as we want to help and inspire people to develop their potential, giving them careers and employment support, and assisting thousands into work and training each year.
Mental health problems are experienced by hundreds of thousands of people in the UK, and often mean that they fall out of work due to the daily challenges they face. However, most people with mental health problems want to be in work but require additional support to overcome their barriers. Appropriate work, combined with the right support, is good for people’s mental health leading to the ultimate aim of allowing people to continue to work.
The government’s Work Programme is a scheme aimed at enabling long-term unemployed, job-seeker allowance claimants to find work. Prospects is the prime contractor for the Work Programme in the South West and it aims to transition people from welfare to sustained employment by getting them ready to work. This could be through assisting with their networking and social skills leading to improvements in confidence, forest walks helping general fitness levels, self-esteem and group interaction workshops, art therapy sessions, peer mentoring, group presentations and work place volunteering. Many people who are referred to the Work Programme experience mental health concerns, and one of these customers who was supported by Prospects is John.
John, from Cornwall, was in his early 20s when he first experienced mental health problems. Now 42, John explains the circumstances that led him to receiving guidance and support from Prospects and the Work Programme.
“I have worked on building sites and been in and out of factories, but the best job I had was working as the deputy manager of an off licence. However, in 1999 I had to leave this job suddenly because of having a mental health breakdown,” explains John, “I haven’t been able to work for the past 18 years due to my breakdown and then the depression and anxiety which followed it.”
To put this into perspective, John follows with: “From 2002-2014, the only time I used to speak to anyone was the lady in my local shop to say ‘no’ when she asked me if I wanted a bag. I didn’t speak to friends or family - I never used to see or speak to anyone at all. All I did was sit at home in a chair rocking back and forth. Here’s how bad it was, up until I was introduced to the Work Programme by Prospects, I just wanted to die.”
John tells of his time with the Work Programme: “It’s hard to define just how much Prospects and the Work Programme have helped me,” says John. “It’s definitely the people I’ve met and the conversations I’ve had with my Prospects key worker that have really helped the most.”
“The experience has given me loads of confidence and shown me that I am not alone. I wouldn’t have got anywhere near where I am today without Stephen and Natalie from Prospects, as well as the other customers in my group, and I certainly wouldn’t have had the confidence to take part in the British Heart Foundation work experience placement, that led me to becoming employed.”
Since taking part in the Work Programme John is now employed in a fulltime caretaker position.