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Government must address severe discrimination and other barriers to employment for people living with schizophrenia

A new report on why employment rates for people with schizophrenia remain so low (8% compared to the national average of 71%) and how these can be overcome was published yesterday by The Work Foundation. A lack of understanding, stigma, fear and discrimination towards people with schizophrenia are needlessly preventing tens of thousands of people from finding or keeping jobs.

The report outlines a detailed set of interventions that would help reduce the barriers to work and highlights how work brings clear health benefits to people with schizophrenia. Those in paid employment are over five times more likely to achieve functional remission than those who are unemployed or in unpaid employment. The research conducted for the report shows people with a history of the condition are able and willing to work.

The findings and recommendations, recently presented at a parliamentary launch with Charles Walker MP, chair of the APPG on Mental Health, indicate that the employment rate could be more than tripled to 25% within a decade. With the necessary political will and the right support, the report shows how individuals living with the condition can enter and remain in the workplace.
Charles Walker MP
said: “The report focuses our attention on the true nature of the barriers to work for people with schizophrenia and how they might be overcome. For many people with the condition, having a job can mean a great deal, both economically and socially. All MPs need to take this issue seriously.  Key early interventions, such as the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) service, are very effective. We must ensure funding continues so that more people living with schizophrenia can access the workplace and carers can also return to work.”
Sir Robin Murray
, Chair of the Schizophrenia Commission added: “I very much welcome this report. It challenges politicians, GPs, psychiatrists, family-members, support workers, employers and people living with schizophrenia themselves to join forces with greater urgency to widen access to the labour market and competitive employment.
“The picture of the jobs market, and the way it works against people with severe mental illness in the UK, is not pretty. But the report is ultimately optimistic because it indicates very clearly that the solutions to this problem are known, and that good practice exists. Our challenge is to embrace the lessons from this report and to redouble our efforts to support people living with schizophrenia to find their rightful place in the world of work.”
Working with Schizophrenia: Pathways to employment, recovery and inclusion
calls on healthcare workers, employers, policymakers, carers and individuals living with the condition to recognise and introduce work as a realistic aspiration. Employers often find making adjustments in work to support an employee with schizophrenia both beneficial to the workplace and inexpensive.

Low expectations of society, as well as from those close to people with schizophrenia can also act as strong barriers. Evidence shows 70% of those living with the condition feel they experience discrimination. This has been linked to high levels of self-stigma, which can impact on an individual’s motivation to work. In times of recession and high unemployment, it is even less likely that those with a fragmented work history or lower levels of education will be able to find work.
The report makes the following recommendations:

  • The government and policymakers should prioritise employment as a viable outcome by implementing the five measures detailed in the report.
  • Healthcare professionals at all stages of recovery need to raise high-skilled, as well as low-skilled employment as a potential outcome for patients.
  • Employers should offer support through reasonable adjustments, including supportive line management; occupational health therapists and developing an open environment in which two-way conversations about the condition can take place.
  • Carers of those with schizophrenia should be able to access support from organisations to help them reach their aspirational goals.
  • Individuals living with the condition should be encouraged to understand how it affects them.

Professor Stephen Bevan, director of the Centre for Workforce Effectiveness at The Work Foundation said, “The government must prioritise the Health and Work Assessment and Advisory Service, as set out in its response to the Sickness Absence Review and expand the focus of the Independent Review of Sickness Absence to include severe mental health conditions. It must also review the Work Capability Assessment to make it more sensitive to the needs of people with fluctuating conditions like schizophrenia and adapt the Access to Work Scheme so that funds can be spent on interventions and job retention. Finally, we must see a national plan developed which includes ministers from the Department of Health and Department of Work and Pensions to boost employment rates amongst people with schizophrenia by 25% within ten years.”

Notes to editors

Working with Schizophrenia: Pathways to employment, recovery and inclusion, by Professor Stephen Bevan, Dr Tyna Taskila, Karen Steadman, Jenny Gulliford and Rosemary Thomas is available at or from the press office in advance. The report authors are available for interviews, briefings and written comment.
2. People living with schizophrenia are 64% less likely to be employed as the rest of the working-age population. Using figures for England alone, the LSE calculated that this represented a loss of productive capacity to the economy of £3.4 billion each year. In addition, the LSE estimated that high rates of unemployment among people with schizophrenia mean that approximately £715m of tax revenue is foregone and £470m in benefits is paid out each year.
3. The Work Foundation aims to be the leading independent, international authority on work and its future. The Work Foundation is part of Lancaster University - an alliance that enables both organisations to further enhance their impact.
4. The development of this report has been supported by a financial grant from F. Hoffmann-La Roche  Ltd, Switzerland. As with all of its research, full editorial control rests with The Work Foundation.

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