An employment support scheme for people receiving treatment for first episode psychosis helped more than half into full-time education, jobs or work placements and improved self-esteem.
Targeted resilience funding from NHS England paid for four employment support workers from charity Pentreath to work within the EIP teams at Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust from April 2015 to May this year.
They helped people access opportunities some had thought were out of reach – helping people to find and apply for jobs, related training and offering coaching.
Out of 67 people, 50 followed a programme based on the Individual Placement and Support Model with 17 others given broader support. In total 17 people gained sustained employment, 20 people went into further education and 14 gained the voluntary work they wanted.
Of the NEET cohort – those aged 24 and under – three went into full time work, one into part-time, five into further education and one into voluntary work.
Recovery workshops were also offered to help people better manage their conditions, and bikes were bought for those who needed their own transport to hold down a job or training.
Angela Hawke, Team Manager of the trust’s Early Intervention Service, said: “Years ago, when we were quite a new service, we had good links with the employment charity Pentreath. We put in a joint bid and got Comic Relief Funding because we thought it would be good to get a case worker within the service.
“It worked really, really well and we had some good outcomes, so ever since then we’ve been looking for other ways to fund it, and we wanted this time to actually have them embedded within the team.
“Their workbase was our office and it was a different model to what we had before and was absolutely brilliant. Out of 67 people in total over the entire scheme, 17 actually achieved employment.”
Participation was voluntary. Care co-ordinators talked the idea over with clients and those who were interested had a joint meeting involving the employment support worker. Thereafter, the work was one-to-one with the wider team updated on progress.
Participants in the £72,700 scheme reported a 76 per cent improvement in their mental wellbeing, according to an evaluation based on self-reported scores for confidence and social inclusion, ability to self-manage and readiness to work. More than half – 55 per cent – reported a five-point improvement in their measures over the duration of the scheme.
Staff reported improved outcomes, better working relationships, and better awareness of psychosis amongst education providers and employers.
Paul Reeve, business development manager at Pentreath, said: “Having the employment support workers co-located within the team allowed people to focus on their area of expertise, which works very well. I think that model not only keeps costs down but also makes things run a lot more smoothly.
“But just going through the testimonials, because outcome measures are all well and good, you can see it meant a great deal to the clients and helped people. Those things make a project worth it.
Employment support workers and staff also teamed up to hold an event for local employers, attended by around 10 firms.
Mrs Hawke said: “Our staff presented about psychosis and the early signs and also about the project and how between us we can support someone in work.
“At a time when jobs are hard to come by and certainly in places like Cornwall where people are struggling to find employment, having those links with employers and real awareness of what we can do together as services is really important.”
The EIP service and commissioners at NHS Kernow are now looking to identify funding to take the project forward.
Tim Kendall, NHS England’s National Clinical Director for Mental Health, said: “Schemes such as this are a win-win for all involved. Working together, as demonstrated by the Cornwall Partnership Trust and Pentreath, EIP teams and employment specialists can deliver confidence and hope as well as the real skills and chances people need to get their lives back on track and realise their potential.”