Sutton’s Liberal Democrat council is encouraging more businesses in the borough to sign up to its innovative Embracing Mental Health Project to help get local people into work and raise awareness about the local employer support networks available to them.
The Embracing Mental Health Project has been set up in partnership with the council’s economic development arm, Opportunity Sutton, and is funded by the Department for Work and Pensions. Local partners include NHS Sutton CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group), South-West London and St George’s NHS Mental Health Trust, Imagine Mental Health (Employment Support Provider), Royal Mencap, the Sutton Mental Health Foundation and Sutton Uplift.
The project focuses on two areas:
- Getting more people with mental health conditions, learning disabilities and other complex needs into competitive paid employment in the borough.
- Raising awareness of mental health with local employers by providing training and support making Sutton a mental health-friendly borough.
The project is encouraging employers across the borough to see it both as a business service where they can access local training and support resources, and as a resource for recruiting experienced and skilled local people when they have opportunities available. In order to aid retention, the project offers employers and individuals ongoing support.
The Embracing Mental Health Project started in January this year and is working with a number of employers across the borough. It has a 73 per cent success rate on placement into paid work for local residents who, in some cases, had been unable to gain work in spite of trying for some time. The scheme has a 100 per cent retention rate in employment so far.
One Sutton employer who has signed up and recruited staff through Embracing Mental Health is Riva Bingo on St Nicholas Road in Sutton.
Nuala Lynch, Chief Executive of Riva Bingo, said: “I’ve no hesitation is recommending the Embracing Mental Health Project to other businesses in Sutton. We have 29 staff and in the past three months have taken on five employees through the project. It has taken us 10 weeks to assist these people at their own pace so that they have gone from where they weren’t happy dealing with the public to being really happy doing it. It’s about seeing people’s abilities and developing them.
“Sutton Council deserves an award for starting the initiative. Other councils should be following this example because there are many good people out there wanting jobs who have had difficult times in their lives.
“The Government talks about helping people back to work and helping people with disabilities back into work and this initiative shows that this can be done. Thanks to the project, people who would otherwise be put on the bottom of the pile are now getting the job opportunities they deserve.”
One of the people the Embracing Mental Health Project has placed in employment is Fay Norman, 68, from Carshalton, who works as an administrator at Riva Bingo in Sutton.
Fay said: “I was in full-time employment until 18 months ago, when I was made redundant. It was difficult to get any work and I got very depressed. I started counselling sessions in Wallington through the project and I told them I would rather be in employment with something to do than sitting at home all the time.
“The Embracing Mental Health Project has been fantastic, placing me in Riva Bingo, and I have worked there for three months now. This job is fantastic. It gives me a wide variety of things to do, from typing and general administrative duties to sending out leaflets and wrapping up boxes of Christmas presents for children in Africa.
“The Embracing Mental Health Project has got me back on the road again.”
Patricia Park, Employer Engagement Officer at Embracing Mental Health, said:
“With the support of our partners, the project has been able to adopt an individual placement approach to employment support. Looking at the individuals, their skills and interests, then building a placement around them. The relationships built with the applicants and the employer are key to the project’s success.
“We have received a very positive response from the Sutton businesses that have signed up to take part. But we would like even more to be part of the project and access some of the excellent local resources available to them.”
Lib Dem Cllr Simon Wales, Sutton Council’s mental health champion and sponsor of the Embracing Mental Health Project, said: “We want to support as many of our residents into work as possible. The Mental Health Foundation estimates that one in four people will experience mental health issues in their lifetime, but this should not be a barrier to work.
“Local businesses should know that they can have access to a skilled and dedicated workforce if they sign up to the scheme.”
Sutton businesses wanting to find out further information about the Embracing Mental Health Project can contact the Employer Engagement Officer, Patricia Park, on 020 8770 6515 or 07734 769 347, or email Patricia.Park@sutton.gov.uk.