Work and Health unit

Over the past six months, Southdown has been working with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (SPFT) on a pilot Work and Health Unit, supporting people with mental health challenges to secure employment and improve their health and wellbeing.

Two of our Employment Specialists have been working alongside an Occupational Therapist from the SPFT in job centres in Brighton and Hove, providing specialist (Individual Placement and Support – IPS) employment support alongside clinical mental health support.

In the pilot’s first six months:

  • It has received 129 referrals, well on the way to the initial target of 180 for the whole year
  • 80 initial assessments have been completed, with 55 clients currently on the programme
  • 6 clients have secured paid work, 1 has started a work experience trial and 2 have started educational courses
  • The majority of referrals not seen, or not on programme so far, are awaiting the start of the ‘Wellbeing for Mental Health’ course that will be run by the OT at both Brighton & Hove Job Centres

Due to this promising start and the national recognition of the effectiveness of the Work and Health Unit, the DWP has recently committed additional funding to extend the service to Hastings and Bexhill in the new year.  

The Work and Health Unit is a first of its kind in the UK (bringing together the DWP, NHS and an IPS service) and is part of the national Work and Health agenda aligned to the Work, health and disability green paper: improving lives.

Saxon Chadwick, Operations Manager for Southdown’s Employment and Learning Services across Sussex, says, “Whilst there is a range of mental health support available across Brighton and Hove, as well as across Sussex, we know there are many people not accessing support and are facing extreme difficulties in their life alone.

“Working within Job Centres has enabled us to be visible to people who haven’t previously been aware of support available. By working together with the job centre team and the Occupational Therapist, all in one place, we are also able to offer joined up support aligned to individual’s needs.”    

Kate Bones, Director of Occupational Therapy and Recovery Practice at the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, says, “This service really brings together work and health. Customers at the job centre can access specialist employment support as well as mental health support and signposting to make sure they are accessing services if they need it. Work coaches at the job centre can also access specific mental health training sessions to improve their confidence in working with vulnerable customers. It's great to see the enthusiasm and energy going into this from all three agencies, with everyone committed to making people's lives better.”

A client of the service says, “I was signposted by my work coach to you (Southdown) about a month or so ago. Our first meeting went really well and I felt you had a strong empathetic understanding of what I want to pursue. We've spoken in depth about what it is I could do which has given me a great insight into different career paths I can take. It has been excellent working with you so far and I'm looking forward to each of the next sessions.”