A dedicated team who help those with severe mental health conditions find work are celebrating after scooping a prestigious award at the 2022 Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) Awards.

Despite headlines reporting unemployment in the UK at its lowest level for many years, the IPS (Individual Placement and Support) Employment Service, consisting of employment specialists from Blackpool Council who co-locate with mental health teams from Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust have had their work recognised at the national ERSA Awards held in Birmingham.

The service works with individuals aged from 16 to 69, to help get them into work, while they are managing and living with severe mental illness, which could include conditions such as schizophrenia, personality disorder or psychosis.

In front of an audience of employability and skills professionals, the tenth annual awards recognised the often unsung heroes who help find worthwhile jobs and brighter futures for thousands of people every year, including many from the most disadvantaged sections of society.

Chosen by an independent panel of experts the awards were presented by industry professionals Tony Carr and Ian Ross, with the IPS team being named as Community Partnership of the Year, in a competitive field of over 180 entries.

Manager of the IPS Service at Blackpool Council, Mairi Fraser, said:

“I’m very proud of the entire team, we formed our partnership with the Trust to benefit the employment prospects of people struggling with mental health impacts and it’s evolved so successfully. For us all it’s about helping those who are managing their mental health conditions reach their potential and do something that so many of us take for granted.

We know that having employment and routine is great for people suffering with particular conditions, and increases their sense of self-worth and self-belief. The IPS model of employment support is an evidenced-based approach which is proven to be twice as effective at supporting people back into work, when compared to mainstream employment support.” 

Currently, with bases ranging from East to West Lancashire and South Cumbria, the IPS service is now expanding its presence into all Community Mental Health Teams across new locations in Lancashire, this development recognises the strong working partnership that has been created between the two organisations.

Since its creation during the pandemic in September 2020 the service has worked with over 400 service users, supporting over 150 people to find a job; with 77% of these remaining in work 13 weeks later and 68% still in employment after 6 months.

One service user commented:

“My employment specialist has been a big help for me to find my dream job.”

Mairi Fraser continued:

“Our service users are willing and capable of offering a range of skills to the workplace and are matched based on their clinical needs and the employer’s requirements. I speak on behalf of the team when I say what a pleasure it is to help people find a job they are capable of and enjoy, it’s very rewarding.”

The model of employment support on offer is unique as employment specialists are co-located with the mental health teams, so they become part of a wider service. The team are striving for a culture change so that clinical staff think about employment for patients much earlier than normal resulting in employment becoming part of the treatment journey, as opposed to the destination.

Helena Hounslow, Mental Health Programme Manager at the Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB), added: 

“Since the commencement of the IPS service, the benefits for individuals has been evident. At the Lancashire and South Cumbria ICB we are committed to the continued expansion of the service, ensuring the service is available to all appropriate individuals. The initial fidelity review demonstrated the quality of the service provided.” 

The IPS service is always on the lookout for employers to work with, if you think you can work with the team, please contact Mairi Fraser on 01253 477 300.