At the start of this year, the Prime Minister gave her first landmark speech on social reform. She talked about the importance of responsibility as she defined her 'shared society'
vision. She talked about healing divisions in society. And as the key theme for her speech, she chose to tackle the
growing problem of mental ill health.
I am hugely supportive of this. In any given year, one in four adults is likely to experience a mental health problem. Poor mental health is repeatedly found to be one of the great drivers as well as consequences of poverty. We know that children from the poorest 20% of households are three times as likely to have a mental health condition as children in the top 20%.
It is a problem that has therefore been laced right through much of my work in government and through the Centre for Social Justice, covering employment, family, addiction, education and debt.
In the area of employment, in particular, the trends are both worrying and growing.
One in two benefit claimants now have a common mental health condition and 1.2 million people on an Employment and Support Allowance cite a mental health condition as their primary health condition.
The employment rate for people who have mental health conditions is just 32%.
The consequence of this is that poor mental health is the leading cause of sickness absence in the UK, prompting the loss of some 70 million working days a year, and UK businesses £26 billion a year.
However, the situation is not hopeless and the Prime Minister's speech was a strong indicator of a renewed sense of political purpose on this matter. The number of employers who have
workplace wellbeing policies is also rising. In 2011, for
example, 57% of employees could access some form of flexible working, whereas this number shot up to 74% by 2014.
Whilst the Secretary of State at the Department of Work and Pensions, I started Disability Confident. This is an organisation which helps to get people with disabilities into work.
I believe this organisation is helping businesses aware of what
they should do.
But there is much work to do.
Around three quarters of people who experience mental health problems do not receive treatment for their conditions.
Stigma is still a major problem - employees with mental health conditions are less likely to discuss their conditions with their employers (50%) compared to those with a physical
Organisations like CMH can play an important role in this wor
k by raising awareness, driving it up the government's agenda and removing stigma in the process.