An employment service supporting people across the North of England who are struggling with serious mental health issues has been granted £3,240 to provide laptops on loan to the people they help, to make sure they can access online job applications and interviews.
The Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Employment Service, run by Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), supports people who are being treated by the Trust’s Community Mental Health Teams to find, or stay in, paid work.
Many of these people do not have stable access to the internet or a laptop – which are now more vital than ever for successful job-hunting, with COVID-19 driving most job assessments and interviews online, and libraries, Job Centres and other places usually offering free computer access being closed during the lockdown restrictions.
The laptops will be loaned to people across North Cumbria and the North East who are receiving support from the IPS team, for around two months at a time when the person is ready to start applying and interviewing for jobs. The team hope that about 20 people per year will benefit from this pilot scheme.
Without a computer and internet connection at home, the practicalities of modern job-hunting are a really big roadblock to someone getting into work.
Even when libraries and Job Centres are open, who would perform at their best conducting a video interview from a public space? Or having to make an appointment and go to a specific centre just to check your emails for news of an application?John BollandService Lead for the Individual Placement Support (IPS) Employment Service
John continued, “We hope this pilot will be a pioneering way of helping to end the cycle faced by some of the people we support, where they don’t have the money to purchase a computer or a good internet connection, but because of that they can’t get a job to get the funds they need.
“This project will undoubtedly help some of the people we support secure their dream jobs, improving their mental health in the process.”
The grant has been awarded by The SHINE Fund, the official charity of CNTW which uses donations to provide the ‘little extras’ that make a big difference to people’s recovery. This includes a sizeable donation to the Fund distributed by NHS Charities Together from their national COVID-19 appeal, which got a particular boost when the late Captain Sir Tom Moore captured the nation’s hearts by walking laps of his garden to raise money in the run-up to his 100th birthday last April.
John added, “We are incredibly grateful to Sir Captain Tom and everyone who raised money for the national COVID-19 appeal to make projects like this possible.”
The SHINE Fund grant has been used to purchase and maintain four laptops, which will also come with a 4G internet connection (meaning no home broadband is needed to access the internet).
In-between each loan laptops will be cleaned, and their profile wiped by CNTW’s Informatics department before being passed on to the next user. They will also be able to be remotely controlled, so that IPS staff can provide direct support if someone is struggling, for example, with using a site or software.
Individual Placement and Support is a highly effective ‘place then train’ approach to helping people with severe mental health issues to find, or stay in, employment. It focuses on giving each person intensive, personalised support to help them find a job that is suited to them. The employer and the employee then receive support from the IPS team, with no time-limit on the support.
Since launching in late 2019 the team have helped almost 150 people into jobs, ranging from nursing and administration, to construction, and everything in between.
John Bolland explained, “Our team works hand-in-hand with the Community Mental Health Teams because good, fulfilling, paid work can be really important to improving someone’s mental health, self-esteem, and overall wellbeing.
“Studies have found that 90% of people with mental health issues would like to work, but only 7% have actually been able to secure paid employment. That’s what we are working to change.”
Jane*, who lives in North Cumbria and is being supported by the IPS Employment Service, explained why this project is so important for people like her. “At the moment one of my mental health workers has to do a lot of the online stuff for me, like typing up my CV. That means everything takes a lot longer – and it’s nice to have the help, but sometimes I’d rather do these things myself, be a bit more independent.
“These days everything is ‘go online at www dot’, and I think, well I can’t! Especially now places like libraries are closed. I feel quite excluded from things, which is frustrating. I have to telephone to get information, which sometimes means waiting a long time to speak to someone, and then they just try and direct me to information online – which I can’t access.
“Loaning a laptop through this project will really help me with all of that stuff.”
*Name changed to protect anonymity