West Midlands Combined Authority's (WMCA) Thrive team and partners are celebrating news of a £6.8m Midlands Engine award for a workplace mental health pilot.
The WMCA is part of consortium of health professionals, academics and business leaders who joined forces to bid for Midlands Skills Challenge cash, led by the University of Coventry, the University of Warwick and supported by MIND.
The pioneering programme has won a contract from to boost health and productivity across the region, focusing on developments arising from the 2017 government-commissioned Stevenson / Farmer Thriving At Work review of mental health and employers.
That report, which highlighted Thrive’s work on a wellbeing premium for employers, revealed that an estimated 300,000 people lose their jobs every year because of mental health problems.
As part of the Midlands Engine strategy a Midlands Skills Challenge was set up to discover ways to close the skills gap between the Midlands and the rest of the country.
As part of the Skills Challenge the new Mental Health and Productivity pilot will find innovative ways to reduce levels of sickness absence and the number of people falling out of work due to mental health conditions.
The funding, which has come via central government, was awarded after a competitive tender process to a partnership will be led by Coventry University and supported by Warwickshire University and the West Midlands Combined Authority. The partnership includes 20 organisations from across the Midlands, including business, local authorities, Public Health, Charities, NHS Midlands, Midlands Innovation Universities and the West Midlands Combined Authority.
WMCA wellbeing director Supt Sean Russell said: “We are delighted to have been given this opportunity to scale up our work and build on some of the existing Thrive initiatives which have been developing in the West Midlands over the last three years.
“We can also learn from the work undertaken by MIND nationally to promote a strong evidence-based delivery programme for the whole Midlands."
Midlands Engine Programme Director Fiona Piercy said: “Mental health has a huge impact on productivity with 15.4 million working days lost every year due to work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2017/18.
“This pilot is a fantastic opportunity for the Midlands to find new and proven ways to support people with mental health conditions to remain in work and be effective in their roles.
“It cannot be underestimated the positive impact this work could bring to our region and I am delighted to be working with our chosen partners to achieve this.”
Professor Guy Daly, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Health and Life Sciences, said: “Over the next three years, the Midlands Engine Mental Health Productivity Pilot will engage with over 1,600 businesses, train 45,000 staff and offer a free online resource that aims to reach one million people.
“Together we will deliver a step change in the support offered to employers and employees, which will deliver better mental health, leading to higher levels of productivity across all types of organisations in the East and West Midlands.”
Professor Caroline Meyer, from University of Warwick Medical School and The University of Warwick, said: “I am delighted to be leading the University of Warwick arm of this Midlands Engine project that will make a huge difference to employees and employers across the whole region and further.
“A step change in activity is required to address poor mental health and help people to thrive at work.
“The workplace provides a unique opportunity to identify and support those people who might otherwise receive no intervention, as well as supporting those with existing problems, and the result of this project will be tools that will enable us to do just that.”