The evaluation was commissioned at the start of the Employment Advisor (EA) pilot in 2009. Its aim was to test the proposition that the provision of integrated mental health and employment advice services would reduce the incidence of health-related job loss, increase the likelihood of an earlier return to work following health-related absence and reduce the number of people accessing out-of-work benefits.
The evaluation relies upon a quantitative and qualitative methodology by drawing upon administrative data from both the EA and Improving Access to Psychological Therapies ( IAPT) services, a longitudinal survey of EA clients (summer 2010 and early 2011), in-depth interviews with a sample of EA clients and semi-structured interviews with employment advisers and other key personnel including IAPT therapists and commissioners.
In 2009 we introduced the EA pilot programme to complement the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme in England, with the aim of helping individuals with mental health problems retain employment or return to work. Similar EA pilots were set up in Scotland and Wales. The IAPT EA pilots formed part of government’s Health Work and Wellbeing initiative, which included a number of proof of concept pilots that provided support for individuals, employers and healthcare professionals with the aim of reducing sickness absence and job loss and addressing the economic costs of ill health estimated as over £100 billion annually by Dame Carol Black in her 2008 review.
The EA in IAPT evaluation has informed the development of the government’s response to the independent Sickness Absence Review, in particular consideration of the health and work advisory service. It provides new evidence of how employment advice can complement health support for employees with mental health issues, particularly where they are struggling at work or on sickness absence.
This evaluation’s findings also complement those of the Fit for Work Service evaluation. Both pilots showed that when people have employment as well as health problems they value coordinated help from both employment and health services. This evaluation adds to the evidence base for early intervention to reduce the risk of health related job loss and flows onto benefits. It will be of interest to commissioners of psychological therapy services as it contributes to the case for commissioning employment advice alongside therapy for working age users of mental health services.
Information from these pilots has already informed IAPT commissioning guidance and services are encouraged to make provision for one employment adviser to every eight therapists. In addition some Primary Care Trusts continue to fund Employment Support Coordinators whose role complements that of Jobcentre Plus’s District Mental Health Partnership managers.