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In brief: People with disabilities could lack work opportunities through proposed benefits changes


A photograph of a man standing looking out of a window.
Zhu Liang | Unsplash

News round-up by Conor D'Andrade

Benefit change plans will force people with disabilities into a job market that does not exist


New research involving 2,000 recruiters across England and Wales has uncovered a decline in home-based roles since the pandemic's conclusion, with 84% of recruiters observing a reduction in such positions.


This contradicts recent assertions by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), suggesting that the benefits system fails to adequately reflect changes in the job market, including the rising prevalence of remote work.


The study also disclosed that 88% of recruiters observed that candidates disclosing mental health issues were likely to seek adjustments, such as working from home.


Among the common reasons cited by employers for not offering full-time remote work or additional home-based days were concerns about efficiency and productivity impact (25%), the nature of the work not permitting remote arrangements (25%), and apprehensions about the employee's well-being (23%).


Anticipated cuts to support for disabled individuals and those with mental health conditions unable to work in the upcoming Autumn Statement have raised concerns, with fears that these changes could lead to increased illness and poverty, prompting advocacy efforts from organisations like Mind.


Chief Executive of Mind, Dr Sarah Hughes, said:


“It is clear the UK government’s proposals are based on false assumptions, and motivated by a desire to save money. Our findings prove that their arguments for cutting support don’t reflect reality and risk leaving people trapped between a broken benefits system and a jobs market which doesn’t exist.


“Poverty and ill health form a vicious cycle. To tackle the root causes of the number of people out of work, and to empower those who can get back to work to do so, the answer is to ensure that people can access financial support which covers people’s essentials and put in place better employment support.


“The UK government should scrap the proposed changes to Work Capability Assessments, and instead focus on things like investing in workplace support and mental health services. We are calling on decision-makers to help people through hardship, not abandon them when times are so tough.”




Longterm painkiller use in children linked to addiction and poor mental health in adulthood


A new study has identified a potential link between the long-term use of painkillers in children and young people and the development of poor mental health and addiction in later life.


The study, which analysed anonymous medical records of 853,625 individuals aged 2 to 24, revealed that those diagnosed with chronic pain (lasting more than three months) and receiving repeat prescriptions for painkillers were more likely to experience substance misuse events and poor mental health after the age of 25.


The researchers emphasised the importance of addressing chronic pain in young people but also cautioned against the potential risks associated with the over-reliance on painkillers.


The study also highlighted the overrepresentation of patients with learning disabilities and autism in the cohort receiving repeat prescriptions without a chronic pain diagnosis, indicating a potential issue of overprescribing in a vulnerable group.


Chair of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics at the University of Liverpool, Professor Reecha Sofat, said:


“Regular use of painkillers to ease chronic pain may lead to an unintentional over-reliance on pain medication in adult life. Exploring when the right time is to refer these young people to specialised pain services for more targeted support will also be a vital factor when revamping pain management practice.”




Largest clinical trial supporting students and mental health set to launch


NCG and Activate Learning are set to collaborate with PsycApps Ltd in a significant initiative involving one of the largest studies conducted within colleges.


The trial, which is expected to commence in the early months of the New Year and extend until summer 2025, will leverage the advanced mobile mental health app eQuoo. The app describes itself as ‘a gamified app designed to teach users “emotional intelligence skills” and how to become better communicators.’


With a substantial sample size exceeding 8,000 students across both college groups, the trial is attempting to respond to the heightened demand for mental health support in UK colleges, as indicated by the Association of Colleges (AoC) Mental Health Survey Report 2023.


Against the backdrop of increased mental health challenges among young people, exacerbated by the pandemic and various societal pressures, colleges play a pivotal role in supporting students, making such initiatives crucial despite financial constraints and a lack of external support.




More than half of unpaid carers in Northern Ireland report feeling depressed


A report by Carers NI has found that one in four carers in Northern Ireland are experiencing mental health problems.


The survey of 1,024 unpaid carers across the region revealed that 57% of respondents had experienced symptoms of depression, while 50% reported feeling lonely.


The report emphasises the impact of caregiving on carers' overall health and well-being.


Additionally, 24% of carers said they had thoughts related to suicide or self-harm.


Many carers have not asked for help due to a lack of time to prioritise their own mental well-being, with one in three carers even reporting having postponed health treatment for themselves due to the demands of caregiving.


Long waiting times for treatment in the health system were identified as a contributing factor, with a third of carers expressing concern that long waiting times were preventing them from seeking help with their own mental health.




Mental health staff accessible to only 1 in 7 GPs in Scotland


According to a survey of GPs in Scotland, only 14% believe they have adequate access to mental health practitioners.


The survey received 804 responses over the year leading up to November 2022.


GPs were asked about the types of other professionals their practices had access to over the past three years, with only 14% reporting that they had adequate access to mental health practitioners.


A further 13% said the same of urgent care staff, and 29% said the same of pharmacy staff.


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