25 October 2019

By Richard Corbould

As an Employment Specialist in a Community Mental Health Team (CMHT), my role is to support service users with severe and enduring mental health conditions to find paid work within the competitive job market.

I am an Employment Specialist for Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Service. I work out of the Johnson Community Hospital in Spalding, where I am embedded firmly within the Spalding CMHT. The area that we cover is vast and largely rural, which can mean a lot of time on some very interesting roads!

It is one thing to find a job, but a bad job selection can be devastating to the health of a service user; indeed, problems at work can often be significant contributing factors to mental health issues in the first place.

My role is all about providing support to the individual to ensure that they find the right job with the right employer. Whilst this means I spend most of my time working individually with service users, an important additional element of my work is developing relationships with the Job Centre Plus and other organisations, as they are important sources of advice and support. Finally, my role requires me to form effective relationships with local employers, so that I have possible sources of work for my clients.

It is one thing to find a job, but a bad job selection can be devastating to the health of a service user; indeed, problems at work can often be significant contributing factors to mental health issues in the first place.

My day starts with a catch-up with colleagues to see if there have been any new developments with mutual service users. Having checked my emails, I review my appointment list for the day, remind myself of actions agreed at our last appointments and spend some time reviewing job opportunities prior to the meeting.

The majority of my service users live outside of Spalding, and with limited public transport most of my appointments take place in the community, either in the service user’s home or in a more public area, such as a coffee shop. This can help to get them out of their comfort areas, which is all part of the recovery process.

My first call of the day is to a service user who has just got a job working for the NHS. Service users often surprise themselves (but not me) when they find work. Today’s appointment was supporting them as they did their pre-employment administration. Many are worried about Occupational Health declarations and we spend time discussing the ramifications of declaring mental health conditions (there are very few that will affect employment).

I dial in to the weekly Employment Specialist phone-in, where I link up with the Employment Specialist team leader and the six other Employment Specialists covering the rest of the county. Given the vast geographical spread, we don’t get to meet up that often, so this regular forum gives us the opportunity to discuss cases and exchange best practice.

Service users often surprise themselves (but not me) when they find work.

After lunch, the next thing on my list is a first appointment with a new service user. I’m conducting the visit with the care co-ordinator, as this puts the service user at ease. We achieve a lot in this visit – build up some rapport, get some clear ideas of the type of work sought and arrange our first ‘solo’ appointment.

Next, I field a phone call from a service user who has received a part-time job offer but is unsure as to the impact of benefits. A call to a contact in the Job Centre Plus clarifies that, because the individual is in receipt of a certain benefit, they are able to earn up to £125 per week without any impact on other benefits. It’s an easy call but it is great to take away stressors!

My final appointment of the day is with a service user who has just started a new job – part of my role is supporting the service user (and their employers in some instances) when they are in work. In the early days of work we meet up quite regularly and discuss how work is going, look at any barriers and ways of dealing with them, or simply reflect on the positives. In this instance, all is going well and we arrange to meet up again in a couple of weeks. We provide ‘in work’ support for service users (and employers too, if desired) for 12 months, to ensure the best possible transition into employment for the service user.

Achieving a job outcome is always particularly rewarding, but so is watching the transition from first contact with the service user to the stage when they start attending interviews.

I return to the office to find a message from the local Job Centre Plus, asking whether I would like to deliver a presentation on my work to some employers. I seize the opportunity with alacrity: any opportunity to pass the message to employers that mental health issues are not work stoppers and do some ‘destigmatising’ is a great opportunity. My service users have a vast raft of skills that make them really employable –  and with a bit of support and encouragement, I am constantly astounded with what they go on to achieve.

I find this role incredibly rewarding. My days are always extremely diverse, as is the customer base. Achieving a job outcome is always particularly rewarding, but so is watching the transition from first contact with the service user to the stage when they start attending interviews.

We all have bad days at work, and we all have ways of dealing with this – for me, it is the following two pieces of information that keep me going:

  • Fewer than 4 in 10 employers would knowingly employ someone with a mental health condition. However, 85% of employers don’t regret employing someone with a mental health condition.

  • 90% of people with severe mental ill health want to work. 8% of people with severe mental ill health are in work. But only 2.2% in Lincolnshire with severe mental ill health are in work.


For more information about IPS and employment support, check out our pages on Individual Placement and Support.  

Learn more about the LPFT Individual Placement and Support Employment Service here.