Individual Placement and Support Service FAQs

Click on one of the frequently asked questions below for the answer:

What is the Individual Placement and Support Employment Service?

CNWL’s Individual Placement and Support Service (IPS):

  • Is delivered by trained employment specialists (ES) who are based in mental health and addiction teams. Research by the Centre for Mental Health demonstrates that having an ES in a treatment team helps more people to get back to work
  • Helps the treatment team to be more aware of how important work is for people who access their services
  • Helps the team become more effective at supporting service users to get and keep the right job

Employment specialists:

  • Support service users to choose, get and stay in the right job
  • Build relationships with local employment services and employers to gain access to the ‘hidden’ labour market. Did you know that up to 70% of jobs are never advertised?
  • Work in partnership with the clinical team to help you manage your health in the workplace

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Who is the Individual Placement and Support Service for?

The service is available to anyone accessing the treatment teams where employment specialists are based. It’s for:

  • service users who would like support to get paid, ongoing employment, or
  • who would like support to stay in an existing paid job

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What if the employment specialist on my team can’t see me because their caseload is full?

Your care co-ordinator can help you access an external employment service. Please ask them about services in your borough or see the Services by borough section on this website.

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How does the Individual Placement and Support Service work?

Your IPS employment specialist (ES) will talk to you about your employment goals. Then they’ll help you update your CV and support you to start looking for work. If you give permission, your ES will also approach employers on your behalf to find or create vacancies which have not been advertised. This will increase the range of opportunities open to you. Once you have found a job your ES and care team will support you to stay in work.

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Is the IPS the same as Supported Employment?

The Centre for Mental Health says IPS is the most effective form of Supported Employment for people with long-term mental health and/or addictions.

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How do I contact an IPS employment specialist?

Talk to your care co-ordinator or consultant about seeing an employment specialist based in your treatment team.

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How do I find out more about the IPS?

  • Talk to your care co-ordinator or consultant
  • Talk to your local employment specialist.

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Do I have to see an employment specialist?

No, but research and feedback from service users demonstrates that employment greatly helps people’s mental health and wellbeing. The IPS model has been proved to be the most effective way of helping people with mental health problems to get and keep a job.

Here is what some service users say about their experiences of being supported into work by an ES:

“Today I work in a retail job hoping to work my way up into management. I think back and I am honestly amazed at how far I have come. I used to think it would never be possible. I am the living proof that you can get a job after being in prison and homeless with mental health problems, you just have to put your mind to it, focus and be lucky enough to have the support of an employment specialist.”

“Going to work is the best cure or medication I can have.”

“Meeting up with the ES was very good for me, as I recall I had reached a very low point where I did not want to meet with any of my friends, as my situation wasn’t getting any better. Since finding employment I feel like a new person. In ways such as the way I think, act and even the way I carry myself. I cannot stress enough how much better I feel having found work ... and cannot image going back to a world of boredom, loneliness and significant signs of the onset of depression. I feel that my life has changed in such a great way that I can encourage other people to do the same and find work. Because it really is worth it, it is a life changing process because it gives the motivation, the purpose in life to achieve things you couldn’t imagine achieving when you’re alone at home. And at the end of it, there is a monthly reward of a pay cheque, so that you can treat yourself and others.”

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How do I look for work?

Your employment specialist (ES) will discuss with you:

  • The type of work you would like to do,
  • Help you to identify your skills, experience and aspirations
  • Identify what help you might need to brush up your skills, and
  • Whether you would prefer to work full or part-time.

They will help you look for jobs that match your strengths, skills and aspirations on the internet and in the papers. We also recommend that you allow your ES to contact employers and agencies on your behalf or jointly with you. Your ES will support you in applying for jobs, and work with you to update your CV.

CNWL also has a weekly job club in many boroughs which you can attend. Many people find it very valuable and supportive to do their job seeking with peers.

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I don’t know what sort of work to do. How can you help?

Your ES can help you explore what sort of work is right for you by discussing your interests, strengths, skills and work history. Many people who access the IPS service aren’t sure about what they want to do, and many have not worked for some time, or at all.

We believe that anyone can work if they have help to choose the right job and support to keep their job once they are working.

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How many hours or days can I work for?

This will depend on your individual circumstances and the work available in your chosen career.

Can I be self-employed?

Yes. We can help with advice about training and where you can get more information about becoming self-employed.

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How will working help my mental health or addiction problem?

Many service users tell us that getting a job has helped improve their mental health and/or manage their addiction.

Studies in Europe and the USA demonstrate that being employed can have a positive effect on mental health and wellbeing. Being in work can increase your self-confidence and help you feel less isolated, make new friends, update old skills and learn new ones, and get a recent reference, as well as address financial challenges.

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Will it affect my benefits?

Not necessarily. Your ES will support you to get benefits advice via a ‘Better Off Calculation’ through Jobcentre Plus. If you do an unpaid work placement it should not affect your benefits. If you are doing ‘permitted work’ you should be able to work for up to 16 hours weekly and earn up to £101 a week for one year without losing benefits. See the DWP website for more details.

It is very rare for anyone to be worse off when they come off benefits, and it might be possible to go on receiving some of them.

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What is permitted work?

If you are claiming Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) you should be able to:

  • work and earn up to £20 a week
  • work and earn up to £101 a week as part of a treatment programme, or supervised by someone from a local council or voluntary organisation
  • work for under 16 hours a week, and earn up to £101 a week, for up to 52 weeks only

This is called ‘permitted work’.

You can also do ‘supported permitted work’ and earn up to £101 a week if your illness or disability very severely limits your ability to work. You must be:

  • supervised by someone from a public or local authority or a not-for profit voluntary organisation, or
  • working as part of a treatment programme done under medical supervision while you’re an in-patient, or
  • regularly attending a hospital or similar institution as an out-patient and working as part of your treatment

There’s no limit to the number of hours when you’re doing supported permitted work, and you don’t need to stop after 52 weeks.

You can find all the details here.

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How successful is IPS in helping people to get jobs?

Research studies have demonstrated that IPS is the most effective approach to supporting people with mental health and/or addictions to find and keep paid employment.

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Can I volunteer?

If you want to do volunteer work only and do not wish to return to paid employment at this stage, talk to your care co-ordinator about linking in with your local volunteer bureau. IPS services do not provide support for voluntary work, but can organise an unpaid time-limited work placement to help you build skills, confidence and employer contacts if this would be helpful and increase your chances of gaining paid employment.

CNWL also offers time limited work placements within the Trust through its User Employment Programme. If you do decide to volunteer, you can contact the IPS service later when you feel ready.

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Do I need training first?

It depends on your career goal, but probably not. If you are in a work placement you will be trained on the job. If you are looking for paid work, research has shown that placing a person in a job and then training them as they work has better results for them than the other way around. The IPS model is based on that approach.

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Can I get help with my CV?

Your ES will discuss your employment history, skills and interests with you and use this information to help you write a good CV which makes the most of your skills and abilities. Your ES can also contact employers in the industry you want to work in, and find out more details to make sure your CV contains the most essential information and is presented in the best way possible.

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What if I'm nervous about going for an interview?

Your employment specialist can help by practising ‘mock interviews’ with you. Some employers also agree to do these to help you prepare.

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I haven’t worked for a long time. Will anyone want to employ me?

CNWL Employment Services have helped many people who’d been out of work for up to 25 years.

This is what someone who was away from work for 21 years and found their ideal job without doing a work placement first says about their experience:

“I am 44 and have a mental health and physical illness for 20 years. I could not have achieved my job without the constant support from the ES, she kept motivating me even when I felt low after not getting the first two jobs. I considered taking a break but she encouraged me to keep trying.”

Your ES can approach employers to access the ‘hidden’ labour market. This is a good job search strategy for people who haven’t worked for long periods.

Remember, the main thing that employers are looking for is people who are motivated and have the right qualities for the job. Demonstrating this to employers is likely to result in successful job hunting.

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Should I mention my mental health and/or addiction to my boss?

This is an individual choice. Often the answer depends on the job you are applying for and how comfortable you feel about discussing your mental health or other health issues, or how necessary it is. To help you make a decision, your employment specialist can go through the pros and cons of discussing your mental health and other relevant issues with your employer. Some of these are:

Pros: It will help you negotiate the support you will need and also explain any gaps in your CV.

Cons: you may be concerned about negative stereotypes.

Your ES will also talk to you about the best time to have this discussion with your employer, and what to say.

It is worth remembering that, if you agree, your ES can mention your mental health (without going into detail). This will enable them to contact employers about ‘hidden’ job opportunities. You and your ES will work out a way of passing on minimum information about your mental health that you are happy with.

Your ES may mention your rights under the Equality Act (2010). It states that employers must not treat an applicant less favourably because of their disability. Employers can only ask questions about health and disability on the application form if it is used to put reasonable adjustments in place during the recruitment process or for equality monitoring. But you must mention your disability if the job will involve putting you in situations where your disability could present a risk to the health and safety of you or your colleagues, or if you are asked a question as part of an occupational health process.

Addiction isn’t covered under the Equality Act. However, if you have any secondary health issues such as mental health problems as a result of your addiction, you will be covered by the Act.

You can find out more about disability rights from the website

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Should I mention my mental health to my colleagues?

It’s your decision. Some people have found it helpful, others prefer not to. Talk it over with your ES, who will help you decide if you want to mention your mental health to your colleagues, and, if so, what to say and how and when to say it. 

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What if I have a criminal history?

We have supported many people with a criminal history to get back into work. Your ES will help you to identify whether your criminal record has any implications for your job choice, and if and how to discuss it with employers. There’s also a help line you can ring to find out if your criminal history stops you from working in a particular job – phone Release on 0845 450 0275.

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Will my ES still support me once I’ve got a job?

Yes. Part of our work is to help you keep your job.

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What happens if I can’t cope at work?

Your employment specialist will help you plan your return to work and the support you’ll need to make it as easy as possible. They will also help you think about how you can look after your health and make your work manageable. Your ES will meet you regularly to discuss any difficulties you may have – and share what is going well.

But if you feel you can’t cope, talk to your ES as soon as possible. Don’t be afraid or ashamed, it can happen to anybody. If you have a good relationship with your line manager, talk to them. Your ES can come in and see you and your manager and talk about how to improve things. Some changes can be as simple as having more breaks, modifying your workload, getting more training or making it easier for you to ask for help.

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What if I get taken ill or relapse?

Your ES can help you plan in advance what you would like to happen if you become unwell, what you would prefer your employer to do, and who should be informed. You can agree this with your manager or colleagues in advance if helpful.

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Do I get holidays?

Each employer will have their own holiday entitlement guidelines. They should talk to you about these when you are offered a job.

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Contact details:

Address: 180 Kilburn Park Road, London, NW6 5FA
Phone: 020 3317 5132

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