Supporting people in employment

There is strong evidence that being in work improves people's quality of life and wellbeing. Despite this, there are significant barriers to employment for people with mental health problems or learning disabilities. With effective support, they can access the benefits of long-term work. But this requires co-operation between employment services, social workers, health professionals and others. 

What proportion of people with a mental illness are employed?

Meaningful work is important in helping people recover from mental health conditions. But there are many barriers to employment of people with long-term mental health problems, including stigma and prejudice.

The rate of employment amongst adults of working age (16-64) with a mental illness markedly increased from 26.6% in Q4 2006/07 to 45.7% in Q4 2017/18. This may partly reflect a true improvement in employment rate, but it could also be due to destigmatisation of mental illness in recent years. People are more likely to self-report that they have a mental health disorder in the Labour Force Survey, which could disproportionally affect those who are employed. In fact, the number of people reporting that they have a mental illness in the Labour Force Survey increased from 1.5 million in Q4 2006/07 to 3.3 million in Q4 2017/18.

The employment rate in the general population has been increasing gradually since 2012, at a much slower rate than for people with a mental illness. In Q4 2017/18, 75.8% of working-age people in the general population were employed. The employment gap between people in the general population and people with a mental illness decreased from 44.8% in Q4 2006/07 to 30.1% in Q4 2017/18. This is a significant improvement, however further progress is needed to reduce the employment gap.

Updated October 2018.

About this data

Employment of people with a mental illness is indicator 2.5.i in the NHS Outcomes Framework. It is one of the national outcome goals that the Secretary of State uses to monitor the progress of NHS England. The data for this indicator is sourced from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and all values are calculated by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Employment rate for the general population
Numerator: Number of people of working age who are in employment.
Denominator: Number of people who are of working age.

Employment rate for people with mental illness*
Numerator: Number of people with a mental illness in employment and of working age.
Denominator: Number of people with a mental illness of working age.

* People are recorded as having a mental illness if:
- the respondent has a health problem or disability that they expect will last for more than a year
- the respondent has depression, bad nerves or anxiety, severe or specific learning difficulties (mental handicap) or mental illness; or suffer from phobia, panics or other nervous disorders

For more information, please see NHS Digital's NHS Outcomes Framework, Indicator specifications.


Despite continued effort and rhetoric these levels remain seemingly intractably low.
Adults with learning disabilities are faced with a mountain of barriers to overcome to even gain voluntary employment let alone paid work. If they do manage to get paid employment further barriers then appear in relation to welfare benefits or the potential of discrimination and harrassment - it's hardly surprising that a further barrier; family resistance, makes things even more difficult!
There are solutions to all these different issues but they need to be worked through carefully, requiring consistant approaches and adequate resources - neither of which are abundantly available in social care circles.
New approaches to self-employment and micro-enterprises offer a viable way forward and must be resourced to suceed.

Hadyn Davies (not verified)
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Dear Hadyn,

Thank you for your comments and your interest in our project. We will take your feedback on board.

Kind regards.

QualityWatch Team (not verified)
(changed )

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