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Pushing people with mental health problems onto jobseekers allowance too soon could backfire

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Conservative plans to transfer thousands of people on incapacity benefit to jobseekers allowance will prove counter-productive, according to the Mental Health Foundation.

According to Andrew McCullough, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation, bringing people to work too early can be "distressing".

He said: "About a third of people receive incapacity benefit because of a mental health problem, so any serious attempt to help people get back to work is welcome. However, there is a real danger that pushing people towards employment when they are not ready will be counter-productive, as the present Government has discovered. The obvious risk is that you cause immense distress to hundreds of thousands of people without getting anyone closer to a job.

"We need to ensure that all staff working with benefits claimants are properly trained in mental health issues, aware of the risks of pushing people with mental health problems into unsuitable work and support people to move towards work at their own speed. The Conservatives' proposals do not appear to address these fundamental issues. 

"Far more also needs to be done to support and encourage employers to take on people with mental health problems - a high proportion aren't prepared to even consider employing a person with a history of mental health problems."