Sean DugganTwo major government-backed projects have been launched to support more people with mental health problems to gain employment when they would like to work. 

Making Work Work will help more people with long-term mental health conditions into work, while the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) in Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) pilot will test out whether the evidence-based IPS approach can be adapted from specialist mental health services to primary care for people with anxiety and depression. Both projects are being run by the Centre for Mental Health for the Department of Health.

The IPS in IAPT programme is currently in operation in four areas of England – Durham/Tees Valley, Wolverhampton, Shropshire/Telford and Sussex. It will provide people who are out of work and have common mental health problems with psychological therapy alongside help from an employment specialist. The 6-month pilot will test the feasibility of this approach before it can be tested out more widely. The project was a major recommendation of RAND Europe’s report on how to help people with common mental health problems into paid employment.

Meanwhile, the Making Work Work project will help 340 mental health service users to get paid work by extending the IPS approach to supported employment into areas of the country where it is not yet widely available. It will fund training for new employment specialists and clinical teams, initially in Berkshire, Lincolnshire and Bradford, to help them to adopt IPS.

Sean Duggan (pictured), chief executive of the Centre for Mental Health, said: “Only 7% of people using mental health services are in employment yet we know that more than half would like the chance to work with the right support. IPS has been shown to enable at least 50% of people into jobs and to help sustain them. Yet there is currently a postcode lottery in access to IPS. Making Work Work will help to address this gap in provision.

“People with depression and anxiety, meanwhile, have seldom had access to effective health and employment support. Only a quarter of people with depression receive any treatment at all. The IPS in IAPT project will help to ensure people who are out of work and have depression and anxiety get better help and support both to improve their health and to find suitable employment.

“Both projects will offer people help with both health and employment based on the eight principles of IPS. These include having no exclusions and no compulsion for people to take part; rapid job search based on a person’s preference with support for them and their employer as long as it’s needed when they start work; and providing health care and benefits advice alongside employment support.”

Minister for Care and Support, Norman Lamb, added: “I want to build a fairer society and that means people with mental health problems must get the help they need to find and stay in work. Having the right job is good for mental health, which is why we're working to develop the best possible support for those stuck in a cycle of unemployment and poor health. We've already invested over £450 million in talking therapies but want to go further and look forward to seeing how these pilots can make a difference.”