A North East NHS Trust is set to radically expand a new service which supports people living with serious mental health conditions into paid employment.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW), a provider of mental health and disability services, has just secured over £1million in national funding to deliver a specialised Individual Placement Support (IPS) employment service for service users across the North East.

The IPS service supports people with severe mental health conditions to gain meaningful, paid employment and enjoy the improved quality of life and improved health that this can bring.

Individuals who take part are offered tailored support to secure real-world, competitive jobs. Once someone is placed in a role the IPS team provide ongoing support to them and their employer.

The service was developed by NTW alongside local authorities, Jobcentre Plus and colleagues in the voluntary sector.

IPS participant N* said: “I’d always worked in the past, but when I was unwell and took leave from work I felt that the last thing I wanted to do was even talk to people, let alone go back to work.

“Getting back to work and being around workmates is so much better. I feel happier and more settled – everything seems better now.”

IPS participant D* said: “In the past I was very afraid and I didn’t have any confidence. If I applied for a job and didn’t get it I’d think I was an awful, incompetent person.

I hadn’t had the opportunity to explore myself and develop social skills and confidence. Since having employment I’ve developed so much and I feel like a totally different person.”

David Muir, NTW Group Nurse Director said: “Here at NTW we want to improve access to meaningful paid employment regardless of diagnoses or mental health difficulties experienced with employment being part of the process of rehabilitation for our service users rather than an end goal that occurs once ‘recovery is complete’.

“This matches the aspirations of many of our service users that they want to work towards tangible improvements in life such as a paid job and the responsibilities and benefits that this generates.

“This expansion of our Individual Placement Support service will make it possible to help many more service users into employment, and we are very pleased to have secured this national funding.”

People with mental health problems are significantly less likely to be employed than other groups. Around 33% of people with mental health conditions are in work, which is far below the employment rate for people without diagnosed health conditions or disabilities. For people with severe mental illness, the employment rate is even lower at just 8%.

The IPS placements are open to anyone who is under the care of one of NTW’s community services across the North East.

NTW’s expansion will see their IPS provision dramatically expand from a single Employment Specialist to a dozen specialists working across the North East, providing hands-on support and specialist guidance to employees and employers.

The specialists will be embedded in community mental health teams across the region, working as part of the clinical team to support service users who may have experienced mental illnesses including psychosis, bipolar disorder, major depression or a personality disorder.

The new service will also benefit local employers, providing them with access to a previously untapped pool of talent, granting them access to specialist employment advice and hands-on support, free of charge, in pursuit of supporting local people into local jobs and creating a more inclusive and diverse workforce.

There are no requirements or limitations around health conditions or diagnoses – so anyone receiving care from the services above can take part, whatever they are experiencing and whether they are deemed ‘well’ or ‘unwell’.

In contrast to other supported employment models the IPS service is wholly focused on each individual service user, with the focus on quickly securing a job that matches their skills and experience rather than offering generic pre-work training.

In another feature which is unique to IPS, both the service user and employer are offered comprehensive, ongoing support to build confidence and help overcome any challenges that may affect someone’s ability to sustain employment.

The IPS service at NTW is planning to engage with the North East business community in the coming months by developing a network of exemplar employers, new regional awards, and awareness and advice events which champion best practice in employment.

The Trust is now advertising the new vacancies for IPS employment specialists and welcome enquiries and applications from anyone who is good at motivating others, skilled at building professional relationships and has the desire to challenge stigma and misinformation about mental health.

More information on the new Employment Specialist vacancies is available on NHS Jobs at https://www.jobs.nhs.uk/xi/vacancy/?vac_ref=915573272

North East businesses, service users or interested members of the public who would like further information on IPS opportunities available in the North East should contact ips@ntw.nhs.uk.

To find out more about Individual Placement Support generally visit https://www.centreformentalhealth.org.uk/what-ips

Individual Placement Support staff will be hosting two free events at Newcastle City Library for anyone interested in finding more about the IPS programme and the new job vacancies. The events take place on Tuesday 21 May, 10:00-11:30am in the library’s Room Bewick 3, and on Friday 24 May, 2:00-3.30pm in Room 7. For more information contact ips@ntw.nhs.uk.

*All participant quotes have been anonymised to protect service user confidentiality.