Innovative support programme improves employment prospects for people with mental health problems

A screenshot of a job search internet site
14 Mar 2013 09:00:00.000
An innovative support programme has helped to significantly transform the employment prospects of people in Nottinghamshire with a severe mental illness.

A study by researchers based at The University of Nottingham has shown that the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) approach alongside more tailored work-focused psycho-social support has delivered an overall employment rate of 57% for patients in the county living with a range of serious mental health conditions.

This compares to just 12% achieved by strategies currently employed by local healthcare trusts and 3% through Government back-to-work schemes.
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The implementation and evaluation study was led by Professor Justine Schneider and funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Lincolnshire (CLAHRC-NDL).

Successful non-medical intervention

Professor Schneider said: “IPS works in Nottingham, helping more than half of young people with mental health problems towards employment. Now commissioners need to invest in the IPS approach as one of the few non-medical interventions that are known to work for this group.”

In the UK, of the 500,000 people with a mental health condition, just 20,000 are estimated to be in employment. However, research has shown that socially, psychologically and economically, having a paid job is beneficial to people living with mental health problems.

Commissioners in the UK are facing a challenge to increase employment opportunities for people with mental health disorders both to assist in their personal recovery and to help to meet NHS and social care targets. The research aimed to build on substantial knowledge about how to achieve this from other countries which has yet to be widely implemented in the UK.

IPS is focused on achieving paid work in the ‘real world’ rather than sheltered employment or lengthy job preparation. Employment specialists within mental health agencies work directly with clients with mental health disorders to explore jobs that they are interested in doing and then provide support, coaching, CV development, interview training and on-the-job support.

Vocational aim

The study involved developing and implementing IPS in Community Mental Health Teams (CMHTs) and Early Intervention Psychosis teams (EIP teams) in Nottingham and will go on to compare the outcomes for service users who received IPS with those who also received additional tailored work-focused, psycho-social support to explore whether this increases the rate of employment even further.

They found that more than half of those who received the IPS and additional support — 42 out of 74 — were successful in achieving a vocational aim. From that group, 23 (31%) started a new job, 11 (15%) achieved voluntary work and 8 (11%) began studying for a long-term professional qualification.

Professor Schneider added: “It’s fair to say that the service users involved in this study were already highly-motivated to work. However, given that these are largely young people aged between 18 to 35 with little or no work experience and a serious stigmatised mental illness, these are encouraging results, consistent with what has been found in Canada and the USA.”

Additionally, the study has changed professionals’ attitudes towards employment support — care coordinators have begun referring to the study team directly because they can see the real benefits that study participants in terms of employment outcomes.

Meaningful employment

Michael Osborne, Service User Consultant (Voluntary) with Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “The IPS Scheme has been a really great success and many service users have gone on to have meaningful employment. I believe that this will give them a sense of importance and contentment for the forthcoming future. They hopefully will go further on to achieve good things. IPS has been a boon to those who wanted to gain work and has shown other schemes how to approach the service user. 

“This scheme and the empathy and understanding that staff have shown to the service users has made an impact on employers. However the desire and effort of the service user must not be overlooked. A combination of staff skill, service user desire and commitment and the Individual Placement Support scheme has achieved beneficial success to the lives of the service users and to their employers and the country at large.”

Erica Bore, a vocational specialist in the Early Intervention in Psychosis team at Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “IPS made a real difference to the clients within our EIP service. By having a non-clinical member of staff based with the team and having a pure focus on employment, clients’ employment aspirations were placed highly on the team’s agenda. Clients actively engaged with the employment specialists and positive results were seen by all involved. IPS fitted the EIP model entirely and strengthened the service already on offer.

“It was a real shame when IPS was no longer able to be sustained within the team due to staff costs. The biggest difficulty encountered by our EIP service when implementing the IPS model was the high volume of clients who wished to access the service and the staffing time from the employment specialists involved. This showed a real need for IPS within the service as a direct result from the clients’ wishes. IPS would be welcomed back into our EIP team without question.”

The final analysis of the project, which is still to be completed, may also indicate that this is a more cost effective way of getting people into work, which is made even more important because the participants are drawn from a population who under normal circumstances would not be expected to be in employment. 


This press release presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.

Notes to editors: The University of Nottinghamhas 42,000 students at award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It was ‘one of the first to embrace a truly international approach to higher education’, according to the Sunday Times University Guide 2013. It is also one of the most popular universities among graduate employers, one of the world’s greenest universities, and winner of the Times Higher Education Award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Sustainable Development’. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong and the QS World Rankings.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise. The University aims to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health. The University won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its research into global food security.

Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest ever fundraising campaign, will deliver the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (

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More information is available from Professor Justine Schneider on +44 (0)115 846 7307,

Emma Thorne Emma Thorne - Media Relations Manager

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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