According to NHS England, fewer than one in 10 people who access mental health services are in work.
And for those who are not on the payroll, many are too often discouraged from finding employment – some even told to postpone their search because they are ‘not quite ready’.
Last weekend, the government said it would look into creating ways of helping people with mental health problems back into employment. Ministers are considering piloting ideas of combining earlier treatment for those people with mental health problems, with employment support.
There are real benefits that employment can bring to a person living with a mental health problem. For some people, work can be the biggest help for someone’s recovery. As well as building confidence and instilling a feeling of achievement, a lot of our social networks are built up at work.
For the past few years, West London Mental Health NHS Trust has been operating what’s known as a “supported employment” or “Individual Placement & Support” (IPS) programme, which is designed to actively support people with mental health problems to find employment. A specially trained employment advisor will assist with the initial job search and the application process, supporting people through to getting work and staying involved until they are comfortable to manage on their own.
It operates within the Hammersmith & Fulham borough and the trust is hoping to expand this to Ealing and Hounslow areas in the autumn.
The service is delivered through a team of voluntary sector employment advisors, supported by specialist occupational therapists, who help people maintain or find employment as part of their overall recovery.
If someone is already in employment, the team will aim to maintain that connection and help them to stay in work. This might mean speaking to their employer about ways they can provide support or make reasonable adjustments to make the return to work easier if an employee has to take time off.
In addition, Vocational Services proactively helps those people who are looking for work by signposting them to relevant agencies, such as Job Centre Plus, and other partnership service providers. Working in partnership has also helped the trust take some of its vocational services into more mainstream environments.
Most of the support given is on a one to one basis, but there is a 10 week employment support course designed to help people with issues such as, goal setting, stress management, team work and dealing with anxiety. There are also a number of one-off workshops on employment and benefits provided through the Recovery hub educational programme delivered throughout the year.