Together We’re Better successful in new funding to support more people with mental health problems to gain employment

New funding has been secured to support dozens more people in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent who experience serious mental illness to find and retain work.

The Together We’re Better partnership of NHS and local government organisations that is working to transform health and care services in the area has been successful in bidding for more than £200,000 from NHS England to expand individual placement and support (IPS) services.

The funding for 2018/19 will build on the successful work of Step On, provided by North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust and the Staffordshire Employment Service, run by national charity Making Space. Both are among a small number of IPS services in the country that are centres of excellence.

Each service is comprised of a team of employment specialists, who provide career advice and support to people with a mental health diagnosis.

The teams work with service users to help them focus on their abilities and aspirations, update their CV, develop interview techniques and fill out application forms. Once employment is secured, the specialists work alongside the service user’s care coordinator to provide ongoing support to help them stay in work.

As well as supporting service users, the specialists also build relationships with local employers and employment services to ensure as many opportunities are available as possible.

People can access either service directly, or they can be referred by their GP, a mental health professional or other agency, for example Job Centre Plus.

Among the service users who have benefited from working with Step On is Michael, who received the vocational and social support he needed to overcome a lack of confidence and explore new opportunities – this led to him successfully applying to university and finding a part-time job.

As Michael states: “Having mental health problems can make you feel like you’ve been kicked down a well, but I am living proof that not only can you climb out, you can climb out and then climb a mountain.”

Making Space has also helped a number of people, including Dan, who was supported to develop his CV and look for opportunities. This led to a successful interview where he was offered and accepted a job that perfectly suited his skill set.

Caroline Donovan, Lead for Together We’re Better’s Mental Health Programme, said: “The demand for these vocational services in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent is great, so the fact we have secured extra funding to support more people with a mental health diagnosis who are either ready to work or need help to retain a job is excellent news.”

Dr Abid Khan, Clinical Director for the Programme, said: “Paid work can build self-esteem, provide independence and make a positive difference to a person’s wellbeing. Scores of people throughout Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent have been able to embark on a new chapter in their lives thanks to the work of these teams and I am delighted this new funding will build on that excellent work.”

Simon Whitehouse, Together We’re Better Director, said: “I’m delighted that this new funding has been secured to benefit local people in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent. This is an excellent example of partners working together to improve the lives of the local community.”

More information about Step On (which currently covers Stoke-on-Trent) is available at www.combined.nhs.uk/our-services/adult-community/step-on-vocational-service/.

More information about Staffordshire Employment Service (which currently covers Staffordshire, excluding Stoke-on-Trent) is available at https://makingspace.co.uk/services/centres/staffordshire-employment-service.