According to a new report by the Health Foundation, an estimated rise in unemployment of 900,000 people by the end of the year, relative to before the Covid-19 pandemic, would result in an increase of 200,000 people with poor mental health.
Therefore, by the winter, it is projected that there will be a total of 800,000 (or two out of every five) unemployed people with poor mental health.
The research conducted by the Health Foundation establishes a correlation between unemployment and poor mental health.
It agrees that, while the government’s action to curb the increase in unemployment by extending the furlough scheme to September would benefit mental wellbeing, the welfare system and job support programmes actually do not adequately account for the mental health needs of the unemployed.
However, the independent charity asserts that there is now an opportunity to ensure that measures to combat unemployment during the pandemic recovery are better geared toward mental health care.
During the pandemic’s initial wave, the Universal Credit scheme had to deal with an enormous volume of claims. The study explains that during this time, the easing of eligibility requirements for Universal Credit and the streamlining of the claims process helped to alleviate some of the immediate stress and confusion experienced by people filing claims.
However, with conditions easing now complete, there is a danger that failing to recognise people’s needs will have a detrimental effect on their mental health.
Additionally, the report states that the nature of government programmes aimed at reducing unemployment – such as JETS and RESTART – should be enhanced to account for the potential effects on people’s mental health. This is critical considering the increased risk of poor mental health within the populations addressed by these programmes.
And, though transitioning from unemployment to jobs often improves mental health, transitioning from unemployment to low-quality work has been shown to deteriorate mental health. As a result, a strong emphasis on job quality is also essential.
According to the Health Foundation’s results, job programmes must be structured to a high standard, with frequent and comprehensive support to ensure individuals’ stability.
Additionally, services must be kept responsible for outcomes such as mental health and well-being, as well as the consistency of job placements.
Additionally, there should be an emphasis on offering individualised Jobcentre Plus resources tailored to the mental health needs of claimants, easing work search requirements, and maintaining policies that have made claiming easier.
Dave Finch, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation said: “The government’s COVID-19 recovery plans are rightly focused on tackling the expected rise in unemployment. Ensuring that more people are in work could help avert a major increase in poor mental health.
“However, more can be done to support the mental health of unemployed people and prevent a potential drag on future prosperity.
“A first step to ensuring that the social security system provides an adequate income and is making the temporary £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent.
“But the government can also do more to account for the mental health needs of those in unemployment by easing conditions around claiming benefits, providing more personalised support, and improving the design of employment programmes, holding providers accountable for better mental health outcomes.”