Quality employment can be hugely important for mental wellbeing and is central to many people’s sense of self-worth. It can also be a vital step on the way to recovery1 from mental health problems. As a result, Mental Health Europe(MHE)2 is pleased that the Council of the European Union adopted a recommendation in January on how to combat long-term unemployment.3 Long-term unemployment remains worryingly high despite the improved economic situation in the European Union and this is especially so for persons with disabilities and mental health problems.4 However, since this initiative was proposed by the Commission last year, we have been calling for greater recognition of the different barriers that different persons who experience long-term unemployment face including persons with psychosocial disabilities.5 MHE is concerned that these differences have not been addressed by the recommendation and therefore, it may have limited success. We would also like to remind the Council and Member States, that this recommendation should only be used to facilitate integration of persons with disabilities into the labour market who identify themselves as ready to work. This is why we will make the point that health services should play a key role in employment services for persons with psychosocial disabilities. We therefore call on the EU to take effective action and adopt a strategy for combating long-term unemployment of persons with disabilities in line with the recommendations received from the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the CRPD Committee) last year.
We have identified the following positive aspects of the recommendation:
We have highlighted the following weaknesses in the recommendation:
We hope that some of these weaknesses, particularly the specified 18-month cut-off point, can be corrected by identifying and promoting good practices which can help to implement the recommendation such as the Individual Placement and Support referred to above. As the name suggests, this method gives priority to helping people to get a job as soon as possible and then supporting them to acquire the skills and confidence to build a career. Skills first or “train and place” methods simply postpones facing the psychological barrier which people fear most – having the confidence to hold down a paid job with all the relationship issues that being in a real workplace presents. MHE would be happy to provide information about the IPS method and the large amount of high quality research evidence which demonstrates its efficacy to the EU as well as Member States. Going forward MHE will be promoting this as a good practice which reflects the approach taken in the recommendation.
However, MHE believes that in order to truly battle long-term unemployment for persons with disabilities a separate strategy that actually reflects the barriers they face and promotes their human rights should be adopted. This would be in line with the recommendations received by the EU from the CRPD Committee which asked the EU to take effective measures to increase the employment rate among persons with disabilities in Europe.8 We therefore urge the EU to adopt a specialised strategy or recommendation which would address the employment needs of persons with disabilities.
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