19 September 2008
Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell has issued a warning about the rise in the number of people claiming benefits for poor mental health.
Speaking at the Local Wellbeing Conference, hosted by the Improvement and Development Agency, the New Economics Foundation and the London School of Economics, Purnell said it was a 'pressing issue' for the government.
'We need to remove the stigma around mental health. We need to transform the support we offer for depression and we need to understand much better how to help people with mental health issues back into work,' he said.
He added that research on 'wellbeing' provided 'insights which should shape policies across government'. The Department for Work and Pensions would look at the viability of a 'major long-term research project' on wellbeing and work, he added. There was increasingly robust evidence that worklessness contributed to 'poverty of wellbeing', and tackling the issue required 'a commitment to empowerment'.
The conference on September 9 coincided with the launch of a report from the New Economics Foundation and the Young Foundation, Local wellbeing: can we measure it? This said the new performance measure for town halls in the Comprehensive Area Assessment would reflect a growing emphasis on how public services could 'help to enhance people's experience of life… alongside improving their conditions of life'.
'Measuring wellbeing can also support local authorities and their partners to measure “real” progress. Given its immediate relevance to people's lives, this may also provide greater opportunity for better engagement with the public on shaping local policy and local service delivery,' the report said.