Joy Henry of the West Midlands Minority Ethnic Business Forum was commenting after hearing about an initiative in the Black Country, led by the private sector company Seetec, to get people off Incapacity Benefit and back to work.
“Work is good for a person not just from an economic perspective but it is good for health and wellbeing. Of course, there is a small hard core of scroungers but I believe that most people who are out of work would much prefer to have a job,” said Joy Henry, a member of the Forum and chair of its Training and Skills sub-group.
“It is essential to identify those who are able to work whilst not forcing people who with the best will in the world are simply too sick to hold down a job. The issues behind long term worklessness are complex.
“Lack of qualifications and skills are an important part of the story but only a part. Psychological issues like lack of confidence and motivation are also very important and it is encouraging that the Black Country initiative is tackling these factors.
“I am pleased that there are organisations out there working with the unemployed and offering diverse training and support to meet individual needs as well as providing a signposting service to enhance the support provided.
“Being out of work is one of the biggest causes of ill health both physical and in particular mental. One of the biggest problems caused by unemployment is depression and depression is a very serious and incredibly debilitating condition yet mental health remains a Cinderella service within the NHS.
“It can quickly spiral into a vicious circle in which unemployment becomes a way of life. The benefits system is also a major factor that can be a barrier to people taking work.
“Employers also have to be helped to be more open minded about taking on people who have been out our work for a long time. Work placements and trial employment that removes the perceived risk to an employer along with active support provide a way forward,” added Joy Henry.