Research to maximise benefits of innovative employment interventions

Research led by University of Strathclyde will investigate the impact of employment interventions normally used to support those with severe mental health conditions on wider population groups.

Individual Placement and Support (IPS) and Supported Employment (SE) are structured policy interventions that help individuals find and maintain paid employment, bringing significant benefits to individuals and society. They are voluntary, intensive, integrated into clinical teams, tailored to the individual’s work preferences and built around adherence to a strict fidelity scale. International evidence shows these approaches to be highly effective in improving both employment and health outcomes for individuals with severe mental health conditions.

There is growing use of IPS and Supported Employment in diverse population groups and healthcare settings beyond severe mental health. This includes individuals with low to moderate mental health and/or physical health conditions, chronic pain, autism and learning disabilities, as well as people who have experience of the criminal justice system, homelessness and/or substance use issues.

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), the research partner of the NHS, public health and social care, funded the IPS beyond SMI applied research project. The two-year project will provide new scholarly and applied understandings as well as practical policy guidance and resources in response to the opportunities and challenges of IPS and SE with these broader population groups.

The project will also include a systematic review of IPS and SE interventions beyond severe mental health population groups and undertake qualitative research with key stakeholders and Experts by Experience.

Researchers will carry out a cost-benefit analysis of six IPS beyond SMI scenarios and develop open source cost-benefit tools, as well as developing an applied toolkit of practical resources to support commissioners and providers in the design and delivery of future services.

Central to the project ethos is the involvement of researchers who are Experts by Experience – individuals who have lived experience of disability and advocacy.

The project is led by Professor Adam Whitworth from the Department of Work, Employment and Organisation at the University of Strathclyde. He said: “IPS is well evidenced to be highly effective in supporting both work and health outcomes amongst its traditional severe mental health population groups. However, policy makers in the UK and internationally, are innovating at pace with these approaches in a variety of new population and groups and policy settings, with significant implications and questions raised around how best to design and implement the approaches in these new contexts.

“This research will shine an unprecedented light on these questions using rich mixed method approaches and in collaboration with a range of policy partners, service providers and service users. It promises to make a major contribution to academic and applied policy understandings of IPS and Supported Employment with new groups, settings and areas.”

The wider research team draws expertise from academics at the Healthy Lifespan Institute at the University of Sheffield and three third sector organisations: Breakthrough UK, Speakup Self Advocacy and Social Finance.

The project will also collaborate with a wider range of stakeholders including the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities; Centre for Mental Health; West Midlands, Sheffield City Region and Greater Manchester Mayoral Combined Authorities; South Yorkshire Housing Association; Maximus Remploy; Humankind; Westminster Drug Project; Little Gate; Hillside Clubhouse; The Education People; and ENABLE.

The research is funded until January 2024.

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