§ Mr. Ivan Lewis
No specific discussions have been held on this issue between Ministers of the two Departments. However, both Departments are involved with the Mental Health and Social Exclusion project being led by the Government's Social Exclusion Unit. The project is looking at how to improve rates of employment for those aged 16–65 with mental health problems, through support in taking up and retaining work. It is also looking at how to promote greater social participation and better access to services for this group.
The issue is also considered when taking forward other relevant policies. For instance we have developed the Connexions Service in partnership with a range of other Departments including the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department of Health, which of course leads on mental health policy. The Connexions Service plays an important role in ensuring all 13–19 year olds, including those with mental health issues, get the support they need to overcome barriers to participation in learning and employment. We have recently published an 'emerging practice' guide for Connexions Partnerships setting out learning from a pilot project on providing support to young people with mental health problems.
The Learning and Skills Council, which has responsibility for planning and funding of post-16 education and training, including work-based training, also works in partnership with colleagues in the DWP. It is undertaking a programme of action research projects and development work that includes work on promoting access to employment for people with learning difficulties and/or disabilities and also on the development of inclusive provision for learners with mental health problems. They have also published a National Institute of Adult Continuing Education briefing sheet for their staff, "Learning and Skills for People Experiencing Mental Health Difficulties". This sets out considerations for local LSCs to take into account in ensuring there is suitable provision for those with mental health difficulties.