Thousands of people with mental health problems have been supported into employment during the pandemic, thanks to the NHS Long Term Plan.
More than 4,000 people were employed over the last year in a range of roles including in retail and digital marketing as part of the employment support scheme run by the health service.
Stable employment is a major factor in helping people to maintain good mental health, including people like Stephen from Bradford who had been unemployed for fifteen years.
Stephen, 48, is now working as a shop assistant in a major retail store following support from his local NHS community mental health team – the new role has made him “feel a lot more confident” and his anxiety has “lowered considerably.”
Melissa, 24, from Hull is now working as a digital marketing assistant for a company called Women Like Me, helping women to get into business and said that the scheme helped her to get the career she wanted as well as helping her speak to her employer about when she was feeling unwell.
People with bipolar, major depression or who have a personality disorder are referred by their community mental health team to the NHS Individual Placement and Support Scheme.
As well as getting thousands into employment, the NHS service has given an extra 10,600 people wider support to prepare them for the job market including help with writing CVs, setting them career goals, and giving them the confidence to apply for vacancies.
The NHS Long Term Plan committed to helping tens of thousands of patients with severe mental illness into work through the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) scheme by 2023.
NHS investment in mental health is growing by at least a further £2.3 billion a year by 2023, thanks to the Long Term Plan.
Claire Murdoch, NHS national mental health director, said: “Despite the pandemic having an enormous impact on our lives, the NHS has been able to help more than 4,000 people with mental health problems into employment.
“While we know that NHS care and treatment are important, so too are the benefits that being in employment can bring – it can boost confidence and reduce anxiety as stories like Stephen’s show.
“Quite often a service user with a mental health condition, perhaps struggling with their symptoms and isolated at home, wants to work.
“Helping someone into a job they really like, giving them a reason to get up in the morning allows them to be able to manage their symptoms better”.
Since the scheme was rolled out in 2018, participants who live with bipolar, major depression or who have a personality disorder are referred to NHS’s Individual Placement and Support Scheme by their community mental health team.
Based on over 20 years of research the IPS employment model is internationally recognised as the most effective way to support people with mental health problems to gain and keep paid employment.
Those supported by IPS work significantly more hours per month and have higher earnings and better job tenure than participants in other forms of vocational services. Some of the participants experienced demonstrate reduced rates of hospital admission and less time spent in hospital.
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “We know the disability employment gap is still too wide and that for many people with mental health problems, fulfilling work and staying well go hand in hand. It is therefore encouraging to see the NHS supporting so many people’s wellbeing through getting into jobs.
“It’s clear how much can be achieved when people with severe mental illnesses are connected with the right employers, especially if they are then helped to stay in work and thrive, with their mental health supported. We know that delivering this service was a casualty of the pandemic, so it’s important that more trusts re-introduce the individual Placement Support scheme as they recover, and the NHS reaches its targets for thousands more people to be helped through it”.
Sarah Hughes, Chief Executive of the Centre for Mental Health, said: “Individual Placement and Support works. It enables people with a mental illness who would like the chance to work to get expert support when they’re ready to find a job that suits them. It’s never mandated, and no one is excluded. And support continues once people start in a job, not stopped at the door.
“Evidence from around the world shows that it works, and it can change people’s lives. We’re delighted that the NHS in England is now embracing this approach and extending it countrywide. Everyone who could benefit from IPS should have the opportunity where and when they want it”.
Brian Dow, Deputy Chief Executive, Rethink Mental Illness, said: “Many people living with mental illness want to work, but stigma and prejudice can often make it hard for them to find the right opportunity to thrive. We know from our IPS services that this approach is a gamechanger when it comes to employment support, putting people’s preferences first and helping them to find opportunities which align with their passions and talent.
“Crucially, support continues once someone starts work to support them in the long-term, meaning it’s a win-win for both the employer and the new member of their team. This can be bolstered with mental health training for employers which we deliver to help them create a working environment which supports people’s wellbeing and makes a positive difference to their working life”.
Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “It’s vital that people with a mental illness have access to the specialist support they need to find employment or get back into work.
“While work itself can’t treat a mental illness, it can bring many emotional, social, and physical benefits that can help people on their recovery journey”.