The Employment Related Services Association (ERSA), the representative body for the employment support sector, is calling on the government to ensure the funds allocated to support people with mental health conditions extend to employment support services.

This call is made alongside the release of new figures that demonstrate that 680,000 unemployed jobseekers have started a job on the Work Programme since its inception to end December 2014. This is an increase of over 40,000 on the previous three months, which suggests that the programme has made an impact in raising Britain’s employment levels to 73 percent, which is the highest since records began.

Kirsty McHugh, chief executive of ERSA, said:

“Today’s figures show that the Work Programme is contributing significantly to the record high levels of employment. However, we know more people with mental health conditions could gain work if more funding was available.’

“The expected announcement in the budget of new funding for mental health is great news for both those suffering from mental health conditions and their families.  However, given that official figures show that at least 10% of Work Programme customers suffer from a mental health condition, we need to make sure this funding extends to employment support services.”

Of those starting a job whilst on the programme, around 170,000 are under 25, reinforcing the picture of young people being the best performing group on the programme.

The figures also show that performance for those on Employment Support Allowance (ESA), though improving, remains behind that for those on Jobseekers’ Allowance.  ERSA believes the Work Programme’s success could be extended to greater number of jobseekers on ESA, including those with mental health conditions, with the right resourcing in place.

The ERSA figures are released ahead of the announcement of official government performance statistics on the Work Programme due on 19 March.  These figures will show the number of people on the programme who have obtained a long term job – normally six months in sustained employment.