This project informed a current study exploring the implementation of WorkWell in NSW’s Supported Transition and Engagement Program, for people at risk of or experiencing homelessness.
Employment is a goal for many people living with mental illness, and past research has indicated that while the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model is the current best practice approach to achieving employment outcomes for people with mental illness, sustained employment has remained elusive. IPS was developed in the USA and has been implemented internationally, including in Australia. Effective employment support for people with mental illness in Australia is challenged by differences between mental health and employment support systems; in relation to funding structures, practitioner skills, cultures, outcomes and incentives to achieve these. As a result, it has been difficult to get these two systems working together effectively to meet people’s employment support needs.
In response to these findings, Neami developed WorkWell, an IPS program informed by the principles of the Collaborative Recovery Model (CRM). WorkWell fuses IPS principles, including rapid job search and competitive employment, with CRM’s strong focus on linking individual strengths and values to employment goals, practitioner stance of holding enduring hope, and building long-term participant capacity for job searching.
This study evaluates the outcomes achieved by WorkWell participants, including employment placement rate and employment duration. Of the 97 participants engaged with the program, 49.5% gained a competitive employment position. Average employment duration was 151 days (21.6 weeks) and average weekly wage was $478. The study findings underestimate the job tenure period because at the end of data collection 29 of the 48 people who had gained employment were still working. Overall 63.9% of participants were supported to achieve some form of vocationally relevant outcome as a result of their engagement with the program.
This study was established to explore the outcomes achieved by individuals accessing an employment service based on IPS and CRM principles. Almost half of all participants (n = 48, 49.5%) gained a competitive employment position. Average employment duration was 151 days (21.6 weeks). Competitive job placement results compare favourably with average job placement outcomes achieved in IPS studies completed outside of the United States (an average of 47%) (Bond et al., 2012) and Australian-based studies using cross-sector partnership agreement models of IPS (ranging from 28% to 57%) (Morris et al., 2014; Waghorn et al., 2014, 2015; Williams et al., 2015). However, these results are generally less favourable when compared with employment placement rates achieved in other Australian IPS-based programmes (Chang et al., 2016; Killackey et al., 2008, 2018; Parlettaa & Waghorn, 2016; Sherring et al., 2010).
In terms of average employment duration, the result from this study (151 days, 21.6 weeks) is similar to results reported in the international literature (Bond et al. 2012) and is higher than the results reported from the majority of cross-sector partnership and alternative IPS-based approaches in Australia. The IPS-related design of the WorkWell programme is most similar to that reported by Killackey et al. (2008). While the Killackey et al. ( 2008) study reported a higher employment placement rate than in this study (65.0% cf. 49.5%), the average employment duration was much lower (8.6 weeks cf. 21.6 weeks).
The study finds that WorkWell appears to support positive employment outcomes, in particular sustaining employment beyond 13 weeks. CRM tools and resources can assist with the operationalisation of the principles of IPS, including optimising alignment between individual strengths and employment goals. These emergent findings present promising opportunities for further exploration into how the integrated CRM/IPS approach can be optimised to enhance employment placement rates.