New mental health employment strategy requires strong leadership

There is much to be welcomed in the government’s New Horizons strategy, not least the convergence of action on mental health and work (‘Mental health strategy will support employers to help staff’,, 7 December).

As a homelessness charity, St Mungo’s is pleased to hear about the launch of the new network of mental health co-ordinators in every Jobcentre Plus district, plus an employment person in mental health teams. Long-term unemployment is a real issue for homeless people – 96% of our current 1,400 residents are not working. The journey back into work can be a lot longer for them, and requires specialist support. The strategy says a shift towards co-ordinated treatment is “best achieved through local care networks”. But evidence from our recent Down and Out report shows that leaving it solely to local networks rarely works.

There is systematic failure at a local level to cope well with people with complex needs. Report contributors from health, housing and social care all called for strong leadership. St Mungo’s would like to see the Department of Health take top level responsibility for the most vulnerable. A lead minister could ensure, for example, national standards for mental health and homelessness.

Charles Fraser, chief executive, St Mungo’s

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