The government is set to extend a scheme that provides extra support that allows mental health service-users to find and retain jobs.
Early results from a pilot project in London, run with the mental health charity Mind, show that more than 90 per cent of those who took part are finding or retaining paid work.
The In Work Support project aims to provide more flexible use of the access to work (ATW) scheme – which helps with the costs of impairment-related adjustments in the workplace – for people with fluctuating mental health conditions.
Experts from Mind have been ready to respond quickly when mental health issues emerge, providing practical and emotional support and mediating with employers to agree adjustments.
Individuals have been encouraged to self-refer to the scheme, which can help if they are reluctant to approach their employer directly.
The project also helps employers build their future capacity to support employees, without the help of Mind or ATW.
The project was launched by Islington Mind and Hammersmith and Fulham Mind, but was later extended to six other London boroughs, and was due to end in August 2009.
But following the trial’s success, the government is hoping to roll it out nationally.
Jim Knight, the employment and welfare reform minister, said: “Our plans to offer the right help early on can end the downward spiral of people falling out of work into sick leave, and onto benefits.”
The government is set to publish its first national strategy on mental health and employment this autumn.
Fay, who took part in the pilot, said: “The support was great and l wish it had been there when l was previously off sick from work.
“I found it particularly helpful in the way it kept me in contact with my employer while I was off – I never felt completely isolated from work.
“I wouldn’t have been able to cope on my own and definitely wouldn’t have gone back to work without the support given.”
Sophie Corlett, Mind’s director of external relations, said: “The In Work Support programme is showing that intervening early and providing personalised support is the most effective way to help people with mental health problems keep their jobs.”
Alex Tambourides, Mind’s national workplace lead, added: “We have enabled conversations between managers and staff that would have been previously brushed under the carpet by stigma and misunderstanding.”
26 August 2009