Stepney, Paul M.; Davis, Paul (New York: Haworth Press, 2005)
The current debate about social inclusion in the field of mental health reveals a tension between the political and economic objectives of social policy. The former utilises the language of citizen empowerment and rights, whilst the latter is concerned with reducing welfare dependency through labour market activation. A central question here is whether a suitable programme of therapeutic work, training and support will produce better outcomes than those predicted by either a clinical diagnostic assessment or indeed open employment in the labour market. This article evaluates a research project with mental health users designed to develop pathways towards inclusion. The principal means for achieving this was a programme of 'green' land-based activities, training and social support. The researchers employed a mixed method approach, utilising a quasi-experimental design with a hypothetical control and standardised testing. This was followed by interviews with users, staff and focus group discussion. The evaluation produced some unexpected findings; for example, it was found that no strong correlation existed between diagnosis and performance. Many users performed better than had been predicted by their diagnostic assessment. However, the reasons for this remained unclear until the qualitative interviews enabled users to give accounts of the problems they faced, explain what inclusion meant for them, and outline how the project had brought gains in confidence, motivation and self belief. The data gathered during the research derived from different epistemological positions. This can be seen as representing two ways of 'slicing the reality cake' rather than producing one complete view of mental health users reality. One construction related to how 'the system' diagnosed, processed, and 'objectively' managed them. The other was about how users' responded to their situation, utilised the opportunities available, and made 'subjective' sense of their experience.
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