Shropshire to host Centre of Excellence for mental health and employment

Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health have announced nine new Centres of Excellence in supporting people who use mental health services into employment, including one in Shropshire.

Services in Central and North West London, Essex, Shropshire, Somerset and South West London have committed to being full partners in the programme. They will act as exemplars of how Individual Placement and Support (IPS) can be implemented in local areas across England. A further four areas have been invited as ‘emerging centres’.

This innovative programme will see these areas demonstrate how to base their employment services for people with mental health problems on the evidence of what works best.

In each site, the local mental health trust will work with partners in employment services, local authorities and other agencies to offer people effective support to get into paid work. The learning from these sites will be shared with other areas of England.

IPS is an approach based on evidence of what works best, and challenges some of the assumptions underpinning current service delivery.

Its services offer help to anyone who wants to work to achieve their ambitions and fulfil their potential.

Job search based on a person’s preferences begins quickly, unlike in traditional services which provide training and sheltered work as a precursor to employment.

Healthcare and employment support are provided together, not separately, and expert advice on benefits is offered to anyone starting or thinking of starting work.

The Centres of Excellence project is based on a similar scheme developed in the US by Dartmouth Medical School, with the support of Johnson & Johnson. Both are offering their assistance to the project to ensure that partners learn from international experience and share learning with other countries.

Sainsbury Centre joint chief executive Dr Bob Grove said:

‘IPS turns traditional thinking on its head and we are thrilled to be working in these forward-thinking areas. International research has shown beyond doubt over many years what we should be doing. The problem up to now has been how to do it. What is exciting is that here we will be working with innovative local services who have led the way in applying the research on what works and are now prepared to share their experience of how to really develop evidence-based services in the UK.

Nine out of ten people who use mental health services in England want to work but only one in five actually do. Too many vocational training and rehabilitation services are ineffective when it comes to getting people jobs. Many still assume that people need a lengthy period of training before seeking open employment. IPS challenges this thinking: the priority is to respond to a person’s desire to work, start the search for competitive employment quickly, and ensure that training and in-work support are provided as needed.

We believe that IPS should be made available to everyone who uses mental health services in England who wants to try out paid work. We hope that our Centres of Excellence will help to make that possible for all in the next few years.’

What is Individual Placement and Support (IPS)

According to the Sainsbury Centre, the most well-established method of ‘place then train’ in mental health is Individual Placement and Support (IPS). It has seven key elements:

  1. It aims to get people into competitive employment
  2. It is open to all those who want to work
  3. It tries to find jobs consistent with people’s preferences
  4. It works quickly
  5. It brings employment specialists into clinical teams
  6. It provides time unlimited, individualised support for the person and their employer
  7. Benefits counselling is included

Evidence of effectiveness

There is strong international evidence that ‘place then train’ models are much more effective than traditional approaches such as vocational training and sheltered work in successfully getting people into work.

The EQOLISE project (Burns et al 2007) compared IPS with other vocational or rehabilitation services in six European countries. It concluded that:

  • IPS clients were twice as likely to gain employment (55% versus 28%) and worked for significantly longer
  • The total costs for IPS were generally lower than standard services over first 6 months
  • Clients who had worked for at least a month in the previous five years had better outcomes
  • Individuals who gained employment had reduced hospitalisation rates

Who are the partner organisations?

Sainsbury are working with five mental health and employment partnerships which have been invited to be full partners in the programme. In Shropshire the partners are:

Related links

  • Press release by Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, 9th November 2009
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