"People are able to find work, stay in a job, and stay well"
The best thing about my role is that no two days are the same and the autonomy and respect given to me by my manager and my peers.
My name’s Becky and I’m the Service Manager for Work and Wellbeing IPS Employment Services in West Sussex. I’ve been in this role for two and a half years.
We have Employment Specialists based in all community mental health services in West Sussex and in Pathfinder West Sussex delivering the IPS model of supported employment, and in the Assertive Transitions Team where workers provide housing and employment support in secure forensic mental health units. We work using the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model which supports people with mental health challenges find suitable employment.
Every week is different. I provide support to the Team Manager who manages our frontline Employment Specialists, and I directly manage the frontline Pathfinder and forensic Employment Specialists.
But most of my time is spent in meetings! I meet with Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (SPFT) to catch up on how the service is doing and check our co-located staff have what they need; and I am part of various sub-group meetings for Pathfinder to help develop co-production or communications across the network. These meetings are check-ins to see how things are going and what we could improve.
We also attend IPS Grow events. IPS Grow is a consortium where IPS providers come together to see what’s working, share new ideas, and celebrate how we’re working. People turn to us and want to learn from us at Southdown.
I do a lot of promoting of what we do – just recently I presented to junior medics at SPFT. I’m constantly trying to raise the profile of IPS and show what it achieves because a lot of clinicians think some people with certain mental health challenges can never work.
IPS works. It is a tried and tested model across the world. You hear amazing stories from clients who have used the IPS model and our peers in other organisations talk about it in the same way.
IPS focuses on an individual’s goals in terms of them returning to paid employment using eight principles. It was designed for those with severe and enduring mental health needs but we’ve expanded that now to include clients through our jobcentre and Pathfinder workers.
People are able to find work, stay in a job, and stay well. It’s a truly personalised model. We find people such diverse jobs in a number of weird and wonderful ways. It’s not restrictive!
An Employment Specialist might meet a client who is new to the mental health services and still learning about their clinical treatment but who knows they want a paid job. And that’s when they start their journey with us. Our Employment Specialists are really skilled in drawing out what people want to do and helping them get there. My role is to make sure my team have the skills and knowledge to do that and be happy.
I used to be an Employment Specialist so I know what it’s like and I understand their role. It can be a stressful job, it’s intense. I didn’t think I’d ever be a manager. I like thinking of creative solutions to problems but I miss the client contact and that’s why I enjoy the case reviews with my colleagues so I can remember who is benefitting from our services.
The best thing about my role is that no two days are the same and the autonomy and respect given to me by my manager and my peers. That freedom and flexibility to work out solutions creatively is nice. We’re seen as the mavericks and I like that. That feeling gets passed down to the Employment Specialists who can then offer that flexibility to the individual clients we help.
I’m allowed to bring my own personal management approach to this job. I was keen to bring in personal reflection and put wellbeing as a standing agenda item in team meetings. I’ve also brought a lot of tools I used from managing youth services to this role.
I came to Southdown when they took a chance on me as an Employment Specialist - not having any experience of IPS - when I was looking to move to Brighton. I loved it. When that contract ended I went to work in the youth sector and a few years later, I was asked to apply for this manager role. I was lucky to show how all the skills I learnt in youth work could be applied here.
Before, I was working in retail after uni but got made redundant. The only place hiring was the jobcentre - haha the irony! So I became a civil servant and realised I was good at helping people get jobs!
One day I saw someone get shot in my neighbourhood while I was walking home from work. I was the key witness and just wanted to leave the area and my job. But a member of the community knocked on my door and told me not to leave, that the community was brilliant, positive, and great. That kindness really changed things for me. I got involved with organising a street party there that summer. I feel a massive sense of responsibility to give people the opportunities I was given like during the time I was devastated and didn’t know what to do."
Our specialist Supported Employment service helps people access and retain paid work, complete education and training and get involved in volunteering. Employment Specialists work in partnership with Mental Health Recovery Teams in East Sussex, West Sussex and Brighton and Hove to provide support tailored to individual needs, goals and aspirations.