Evidence-based supported employment (EBSE) - Workwise

Evidence-based supported employment

People who experience a mental illness want to work and can work

When unemployed people with experience of mental illness are asked about their hopes for a job, the majority say they would like to work…either now or sometime in the future.

People consistently talk about how important work is to their emotional wellbeing and financial independence, their pride in themselves and their sense of self-worth and confidence.

Yet, in New Zealand, people who are in contact with mental health services have an employment rate of less than 20 per cent. In fact, people who experience mental illness have the lowest employment rates of any disadvantaged group.

Using an employment programme called evidence-based supported employment (EBSE) can make a huge difference.  

What is EBSE?

Evidence-based supported employment is a proven method of supported employment which is used across the world. It integrates employment assistance with mental health treatment and support. 

EBSE is not new; it is being used successfully in a number of countries including Australia, the UK and parts of Europe, USA, Canada, Hong Kong and Japan. However, EBSE is not readily available across some parts of New Zealand and is not widely known – yet.

EBSE is based on several key principles, including: setting competitive employment as the goal; helping people find work quickly; working in an integrated way with the person’s mental health treatment and support teams; and providing high levels of support for workers and employers once a job is secured.

The more these principles are followed, the better the outcomes are. 

Having a paid job can be a key part of getting well and staying well

People with experience of mental illness and who have a job talk about the important role that working plays in their wellbeing. Studies have also shown that having a job not only improves symptoms of a mental illness, but it reduces the contact time people need from mental health teams. It also reduces the number of hospital admissions as well as the length of those admissions. 

Employment then, is a health intervention. 

Conversely, unemployment is bad for our health, particularly our mental health. 

That means that the very low employment rates for people who experience mental health conditions are both a health and a welfare issue. 

Helping people with mental illness find a job, and keep a job is a very good use of taxpayer funds.

There is lots of research to show that EBSE works. In fact, EBSE services are three times more effective than the best available traditional vocational rehabilitation in helping get people into paid jobs.

In addition, EBSE services cost no more, and probably cost less, than many existing vocational rehabilitation services. We also know that when people are working they are far less reliant on the welfare system.

If New Zealand extended EBSE services into more primary and secondary mental health services, there is huge potential to reduce the number of people on benefits at the same time as improving their mental health.

Workwise and the wider Wise Group is a strong supporter of EBSE.