People have been describing how support from an NHS employment service, which helps people struggling with serious mental illness to find work, has turned their lives around.
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.
Since launching in late 2019 the service has helped almost 150 people into jobs, ranging from nursing, to administration, to construction, and everything in between. The team also help people who are struggling at work to keep their job.
It’s been really positive that there’s some hope and some light at the end of the tunnel and there’s potential to get another job…which is really, really helping my mental health and my self-esteem.
An independent evaluation of the service was recently undertaken by the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System. More than a hundred people who were supported by the service were involved in surveys and focus groups as part of the evaluation.
One person explained how important the support has been: “It’s been really positive that there’s some hope and some light at the end of the tunnel and there’s potential to get another job, and [the IPS team have] instilled us with a lot of confidence in myself that I was maybe losing this year, which is really, really helping my mental health and my self-esteem”.
Another person who had received support from the IPS team explained, “When you’re suffering from mental health difficulties and particularly trying to find a job, it’s very easy to kind of become wrapped in this bubble of despair…where it’s easy to talk yourself out of things… But because I had ongoing contact with my IPS worker, that was never allowed to really take hold. I was able to fight off the demons a little bit better.”
The evaluation found that 81% of the people who got a job with the IPS Employment Service’s help kept that job for more than 13 weeks, showing just how effective the team are at finding someone employment which suits them.
A major focus of the IPS employment support model is finding work that suits the individual person’s needs. One person told evaluators, “It’s a very unusual thing to have a service that is very geared towards me…The first question [staff] asked me is ‘What do you want to do?’ Well, I don’t think in my entire life anybody has asked me that… it sort of changed my whole viewpoint about life in many ways…It’s overwhelming how much more positive I feel because of it.”
Someone else explained, “As well as looking at vacancies, we also looked at how meaningful or worthwhile it was to me, you know? …Working out what I didn’t want to do was quite important to me”.
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 well-suited to them. IPS staff can also liaise with employers to explain the adaptations or adjustments someone might need due to their mental health. Once someone is in work, the employer and the employee then receive support from the IPS team, with no time-limit on the support.
It’s about making us as individuals feel better and live better, more worthwhile, satisfying lives.
The service also ensures that people learn to find a healthy work-life balance to help them stay well. One person told evaluators, “Although it’s an employment initiative, it’s also about finding that balance. It’s about making us as individuals feel better and live better, more worthwhile, satisfying lives.
“I don’t have to work 5 or 6 days a week to be a worthwhile person or to be happy…I’ve a tendency to take things on and do them and do them, to my detriment… but I’ve realised the balance is actually really, really important, and much more important than I ever thought it was”.
John Bolland, service lead for the IPS Employment Service, explained: “This kind of feedback demonstrates just how important employment opportunities are in helping people who are struggling with serious mental health problems to recover.”
John added, “The positive results of this independent evaluation reflect the incredible hard work and determination of our staff and the people they support, during what has been an unbelievably difficult year.”