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Leona McDermid Social Firm Development Coordinator

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Mind the Gap. Experiences of People with Mental Health Problems moving into Employment. Leona McDermid Social Firm Development Coordinator. ‘The Benefits Trap’ (2001) M. Pressland. 59\% wanted to work in paid employment 75\% of those earning up to the earnings disregard

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Mind the Gap

Experiences of People with Mental Health Problems moving into Employment

Leona McDermid

Social Firm Development Coordinator

‘The Benefits Trap’ (2001) M. Pressland
  • 59% wanted to work in paid employment
  • 75% of those earning up to the earnings disregard
  • would work more hours if it had no effect on their
  • Income
  • 57% saw the benefits trap as the main reason for not
  • working

The aim of the research was to conduct a

qualitative study of the experiences of

people with mental health problems,

focusing on employment.

Conceptual Framework





“Once you have the tag of mental health problems you are stuck with it”

“As soon as you say you have mental health problems you can see the shutters come down

“If the rest of the staff get to know you have a problem they tend to treat you differently. Some people are scared”

the benefits system
The Benefits System

“I found out what benefits I should be on by accident.”

“My payment was delayed for 2 months. I got into debt, became more stressed and anxious and my health just went downhill.”

“I am hoping to go back to work soon but my big worry is that if I don’t get some benefits I’ll have to go straight back to work full-time and I am not ready for that”

“I would need a steady rise back into employment to avoid another breakdown”

personal experiences in the workplace
Personal Experiences in the Workplace

“I had to give up my job. Because they knew I was a good worker they were always giving me overtime. There was just too much pressure and I became ill”

“You get people that pick on you..I’ve had that so many times”

“I couldn’t go back to my job because the problems came from the job. The manager wasn’t taking responsibility for his job. More and more responsibility was being put on me. The situation didn’t get any better…I’d been in the job for 6 years.”

gaps in service provision
Gaps in Service Provision

The Employment Spectrum

  • Employment-related activity
  • Sheltered Employment
  • Transitional Employment Market
  • Job Brokerage
  • Employment Support
  • Job Retention
motivation to work
Motivation to Work

“Money has to be one of the prime considerations but..,with me it was just sitting in the house watching daytime TV climbing the walls”

“There is a certain status that comes with having a job”

“…I felt that I had to get back to work because if I didn’t, I didn’t know what I was going to do because I was so isolated.”

“I wanted to get out of the house. Where was my day going? Bed. Sleeping.

specific barriers to employment
Specific Barriers toEmployment

“Becoming ill again could happen at any time, that’s why I have not tried to get a job again.”

“If you go to work for an employer that doesn’t know the symptoms, that’s daunting”

“I just find it so difficult knowing whether I’m fit to go back to work or not – and so do the professionals.”

key recommendations
Key Recommendations
  • Develop more flexible transition arrangements that allow people to build up their hours
  • A commitment to interdepartmental working to tackle the problem of employment exclusion for people with mental health problems
  • Tackling of stigma and discrimination
  • Increased investment in the Transitional Employment Market
  • The creation of a ‘Benefits Transfer’ Opportunity