‘On the job’ support key to helping veterans find and stay in work, report finds

12 April 2016

Ex-Service personnel with a serious mental health condition are nearly three times more likely to find and stay in work if they are supported through Individual Placement and Support (IPS), rather than other methods of support, our report published today has found.

Today’s report, entitled Employment in mind, was produced by Centre for Mental Health, and identifies the IPS model as the most effective method of supporting these veterans into work. It was commissioned by The Poppy Factory, a leading charity that supports wounded, injured or sick (WIS) ex-Service personnel into employment, to research into the barriers to employment faced by ex-Service men and women with mental health conditions. 

The report finds that IPS is more effective than the other main approach of getting people into work, ‘train then place’, which involves training, development and sheltered work, then placing the person in paid employment.  IPS, in contrast, gets people into competitive employment first with training and support provided ‘on the job’.

Employment in mind will be used to create a toolkit that will provide guidance for employers on supporting veterans with mental health conditions.  The free toolkit will be made available by The Poppy Factory later this summer.

The report was funded by Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), whose mission is to enable ex-Service personnel and their families make a successful and sustainable transition into civilian life, by generating evidence that will influence policy makers and service deliverers. This research by Centre for Mental Health and The Poppy Factory complements FiMT’s Transition Mapping Study Report (published in 2013), which underlined the importance of individually tailored transition pathways.  The report pulls together existing research to create a profile of veterans with mental health conditions, the challenges they face when trying to find or remain in employment, and the skills they bring to the workplace.

It finds that all Armed Forces veterans can face a range of challenges and obstacles to gaining and maintaining civilian work.  This includes: inadequate preparation for civilian employment; low transferability of qualifications and skills; difficulties adjusting to new workplace cultures; and myths and negative stereotypes.

Veterans with mental health conditions though face additional barriers to employment, the report finds. Assumptions about the employability of those with mental health conditions, as well as assumptions among employers about veterans’ mental health, can have an adverse impact on their employment prospects.

As with the one in four people in the general population who experience a mental health problem at any given time, it is likely that many unemployed WIS veterans are experiencing psychological distress.  Existing research has suggested that the prevalence of common mental health conditions amongst serving military personnel is twice that of the general working population.  There is also evidence that mental health problems can be triggered, or exacerbated, by unemployment.

The report identifies the IPS model as the most effective way of supporting wounded, injured or sick veterans into employment.  It shows that:

  • The employment rate for IPS is twice that of usual high quality vocational support for people with serious mental illness
  • Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder are nearly three times more likely get into open employment, which has no terms or periods defined in the contract itself, if they access IPS instead of supported employment

The Poppy Factory, which supports hundreds of disabled veterans across the country into work each year, is using the report to shape its Getting You Back to Work employability programme to provide the best possible evidence-based support to disabled veterans. It is commissioning additional research to further shape the development of its employability support and ensure it is underpinned by a sound evidence base.

Sean Duggan, Chief Executive of Centre for Mental Health, said: “The veterans that the Poppy Factory has supported into employment have shown that they bring a wide range of skills and qualities to their employers. With support from the Poppy Factory, they have shown that stereotypes about veterans with mental health conditions are outdated and incorrect. Our research shows that the Individual Placement and Support approach holds great promise for supporting more veterans with mental health conditions into employment.”

Our research shows that the Individual Placement and Support approach holds great promise for supporting more veterans with mental health conditions into employment.

Sean Duggan, Chief Executive, Centre for Mental Health

Melanie Waters, Chief Executive of The Poppy Factory, said: “Despite the myths and negative stereotypes, veterans have a tremendous amount to contribute to the workplace. However for a small but important minority struggling with mental health problems, finding and staying in work can be challenging. They can and should be supported back into work as part of their road to recovery and this exciting and comprehensive piece of research shows a clear way forward. Much of our work and approach already mirrors closely the IPS approach, and we will use this report to further hone and refine our models of support so that veterans are given and even better chance to apply their skills and reach their potential in the workplace, regardless of background or disability.”

Melanie will be giving a talk about the findings of this report at the Combat Stress “Military Mind” Symposium on Tuesday 19th April, along with Stephany Carolan, the report’s author. Together, they will hope to persuade the rest of the sector to join The Poppy Factory in taking the IPS approach to employment support for veterans.

Air Vice-Marshal Ray Lock, Chief Executive of Forces in Mind Trust, commented: “For ex-Service men and women, employment is a key component of successful transition back to civilian life. It is important that the type of support provided to ex-Service personnel to help them find and stay in employment is based on sound evidence. ‘Employment in mind’ provides a good deal of insight into this important area, and it will contribute to the development of much-needed employment support services based on a clearer understanding of what works.”

Read the report here

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