People with mental health problems often want to be working but don't know how to go about it or need support to make it happen. If they do want to work, then the most effective method of helping them to do so is Individual Placement and Support (IPS).

It is more effective than the other main approach of getting people into work of 'train then place', which involves training, development and sheltered work then placing the person in paid employment. IPS gets people into competitive employment first with training and support on the job.

What is IPS ?

Miles Rinaldi, Head of Recovery and Social Inclusion at South West London & St. George's Mental Health NHS Trust, explains Individual Placement and Support

The evidence

There is now overwhelming 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 compared IPS with other vocational / rehabilitation services in six European countries. It concluded that:

  • IPS clients were twice as likely to gain employment (55% v. 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.

The principles

IPS has been shown to be more effective the more closely it follows these eight principles:

  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. Employment specialists develop relationships with employers based upon a person's work preferences
  7. It provides time unlimited, individualised support for the person and their employer
  8. Benefits counselling is included.

The source of these principles is the Dartmouth IPS Supported Employment Center website. Services or outside organisations (such as us) can carry out a Fidelity Review to check the extent to which a service is following these principles.

IPS stories

CNWL, an IPS Centre of Excellence, recently celebrated the 10 year anniversary of their employment services for people with severe mental health conditions. You can see a clip sharing some of their service user success stories below.

CNWL has also written an article about the benefits of IPS - 'Journeys to work: the perspective of client and employment specialist of Individual Placement and Support in action'. You can download it below.

Download the Journeys to work article (91 KB)

Working Well: about Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust's approach to IPS. Sussex is one of our emerging centres of excellence.

Regional trainers

Implementation of the IPS approach in the UK has been patchy and few places have achieved high fidelity to the model. Practitioners in the USA have been implementing IPS programmes since 2001 and using State Trainers to increase paid work outcomes for clients with severe and enduring mental illness. The success of these posts has lead to the creation of a similar posts in the UK.

The Centre has tested this approach in Sussex, creating the first Regional Trainer in the UK. The post built sustainable, high performing (high fidelity) supported employment services across Sussex and increased the numbers of people found competitive jobs. Over the 12 months of the pilot the number of people who obtained paid work through the IPS service more than doubled the target of 125 - overall 286 people found paid employment.

Making IPS work - establishing IPS in six areas

Our latest IPS project builds on the previous work on the Sussex Regional Trainer and Improve in the West Midlands. The Making IPS Work project will establish IPS services in 6 areas, in the South East, East Midlands and Yorkshire and Humber regions, aiming to achieve a total of 340 paid jobs for service users over the three years.  The project will firmly establish the service in the 6 areas and spread knowledge and support for IPS across England.

This project is funded by the government's Innovation, Excellence and Strategic Development Fund (IESD) through the Department of Health.

How we can help

Centre for Mental Health supports organisations to implement and improve their IPS services through consultancytraining and fidelity reviews.

Follow us on twitter @CentreforMH_IPS to keep up to date with IPS and employment support for people with mental health conditions