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10 March 2022

How employment support works

Many people who experience a mental illness want to work and can work. We use an employment support approach called individual placement and support (IPS).


IPS is a proven method of employment support that combines employment assistance with mental health treatment and support.

Why use IPS employment support?

When unemployed people with experience of mental distress 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 experience mental illness have the lowest employment rates of any disadvantaged group.

Using IPS employment support can make a huge difference. That’s why Workwise has provided IPS employment support in New Zealand since we started in 2000.

What is IPS employment support?

IPS employment support is an evidence-based approach which is used across the world. It integrates employment assistance with mental health treatment and support.

There are some key IPS practice principles we use to get better outcomes:

  • Real jobs for real pay is the goal
  • Helping people find work quickly
  • Working in an integrated way with the person’s mental health treatment and support teams
  • Providing high levels of support for new workers and employers once a job is secured.

IPS employment support is used successfully internationally in countries including Australia, the UK and parts of Europe, USA, Canada, Hong Kong and Japan.

How does employment improve wellbeing?

Studies have shown that having a job can not only improve symptoms of a mental illness, but it can reduce the contact time people need from mental health teams. It can also reduce the number of hospital admissions as well as the length of those admissions.

People with experience of mental distress who have a job talk about the important role that working plays in their wellbeing.

Employment can therefore be seen as a health intervention. Conversely, unemployment is bad for our health, particularly our mental health.

Workwise and IPS

Workwise and the wider Wise Group is a strong supporter of IPS employment support. In 2018, the Wise Group established Work Counts as a centre of excellence to offer expert advice, practical training and support to help New Zealand organisations develop and deliver IPS employment support programmes.

Visit the Work Counts website to find out more about implementing an IPS employment support programme in your organisation. Read more about how IPS employment support can work in a mental health team setting and discover the practice principles of the approach.

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