Former NHS managers join forces to set up new company

Pictured are Diane Heaven and Ricky Newton

Two former NHS managers have joined forces to set up a new company designed to help people with even the most severe mental health conditions return to work.


Working for Health’s new programme ‘The Work Place’ has just been officially launched.  The event was held at the University of Hull’s Enterprise Centre, which is providing them with cost effective office space, equipment and networking support as an incubator business.


Co-founders Diane Heaven and Ricky Newton have spent years working as practitioners in mental health and employment services.

Between them, they have worked at central government level advising on employment service provision relating to mental health; developed and delivered services for people with mental health conditions, and worked with employers to improve workplace mental health.


This experience taught them that there was a gap for a new kind of offering to help avoid people slipping through the net, and save the country millions of pounds every year in welfare benefits payments.


First established in 2015, the Working for Health team support people experiencing conditions ranging from bi-polar disorder to depression and anxiety in regaining the skills and confidence they need to get back into the world of work.


Diane and Ricky were inspired to set up the initiative because they’d watched too many fail to get help.  In fact, they are so passionate about their cause, having given up their senior roles, they worked pro bono for the first year-and-a-half to get Working for Health off the ground.


Despite its relatively short time in existence, Working for Health has now attracted substantial funding from sources including the Big Lottery; the Building Better Opportunities Fund, part of the European Social Fund’s Big Lottery scheme; and the UnLtd support fund for social entrepreneurs.


Until now, a lack of specific return-to-work support like that offered by Working for Health has meant too many people who want to get work-fit again are unable to do so.


“In Hull alone, there are 16,000 people claiming disability benefits. Nationally, two thirds of the people claiming such benefits do so because of their mental health. So, if the same ratio applies to Hull, that means more than 10,000 people are claiming for this reason,” said Diane.


“Add to this the number of people who are out of work but don’t qualify for disability benefits and are on Jobseekers instead, and the number goes up enormously.


“Until we set up this service, only the mainstream support services existed, but this meant a lot of people had nowhere to go.”


Diane and Ricky plan to help turn this trend around, with a target of working with over 200 people a year by the end of the next three years.


As well as helping people who need support, they are also training the practitioners of the future via work placements to help promote better understanding of mental health and employment.


To this end, the team have interns working with them from places like the university’s psychology department.


They are also reaching out to employers to overcome misconceptions about mental health in the workplace, and create pathways for their service users back into employment.


Ricky said: “People with these kinds of issues are often told they will never work again and this in some ways results from a general fear of mental health in our society at large.


“In reality, work can take various forms, including part-time, voluntary and homeworking. Many people with mental health issues are very keen to do something constructive with their time. They simply need a little more support and encouragement in handling themselves and the kinds of situations they might find themselves in at work.


“It’s easy to forget that, for most of us, work is an important social outlet and gives us our sense of worth, as well as financial security.


“Why should people be denied that just because they have a mental health condition?


“Eighty per cent of those who are on disability benefits because of physical ailments go back to work. Among those with mental health conditions, the figure drops dramatically, to just 10 per cent.


“We believe, quite simply, that if there are 10,000 people in this city experiencing mental health issues, we need to help them.”


Lindsey Nicklin, Manager of the Enterprise Centre, which has helped Working for Health get off the ground, said: “This kind of company is what we are all about.


“We work with passionate people who have great ideas which can benefit our wider community and employment market, and help them achieve their goals by providing them with everything from office space to the expertise of our research and teaching departments.”


Working for Health is already having a profoundly positive impact on the lives of those using it, and fellow practitioners are also highly impressed by Working for Health’s holistic approach to mental health.


Anjula Gupta, a Clinical Psychology tutor at the university, said: “What Diane and Ricky are doing is very inspiring, including upskilling future generations of mental health workers with a new depth of experience and insight, so that they can give people the best possible help in the future.


“My students have found their placements at the centre incredibly educational.”


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