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Briefing: Employment support in mental health and addiction care and treatment


September 10, 2020

An evidence briefing for political parties

In the run-up to the recent election, Platform Trust hosted a pre-election mental health and addiction forum. This event, which is held every election, was an opportunity to brief the main political parties on topical issues in the mental health and addiction sector.

Work Counts submitted a briefing paper with the message, “We know what works. It is now time to rapidly scale up access to employment support in GP clinics and mental health centres.”

We know what works – it is now time to scale up

This is an important message for us to continue giving to the incoming government.

New Zealand is currently in the process of a transformation of our mental health and addiction system. This is an opportunity to ensure that people have support to keep their job or return to employment as an integral part of their health treatment.

Auckland District Health Board (ADHB) has been delivering integrated employment and mental health services for 15 years. Former operations manager of ADHB Adult Community Services Lynne Edmonds said, “Employment support is a core health service and should be funded as such. It is not just a nice to have, it is about functional recovery. Individual placement and support (IPS) should be available for everyone in health and disability services.”

We’re now at a pivotal point

We’re now at a pivotal point to make employment support a core health intervention alongside medication support, talking therapies, peer, education and crisis support – just as the Wellbeing Manifesto called for.

  • Policy is well-aligned across government.
  • We are experienced. Integrated IPS employment support has been delivered in Aotearoa for more than 15 years.
  • We have expertise, including Work Counts training and technical assistance.
  • There is an alignment of IPS principles and practices with Te Ao Māori.
  • Clinical guidelines from the Royal Australia and New Zealand College of Psychiatry recommend that clinicians actively support people’s employment aspirations and that IPS integrated employment support be more widely available.
  • We have direction and a roadmap on how to make this happen from He Ara Oranga and the OECD mental health and work report.

Scaled up employment support needed now more than ever

Work Counts strategic advisor Dr Helen Lockett said, “If the transformation of the mental health and addiction system doesn’t intentionally include employment support now, we will continue to see the same sporadic and inequitable growth of IPS employment support for another 10-15 years.”

In a blog on the #CrisisTalk website, psychiatrist and researcher Dr Bob Drake discussed why we need to make IPS employment support core to mental health and addiction treatment services, now more than ever. Bob co-developed the IPS employment support approach.

Once people start working, “they have more self-confidence, develop friends in the community, participate in activities, experience financial stability, and many get promoted over time or get some education so they can get a better job,” said Dr Drake.

“I’ve never seen any other kind of intervention where people actually recover to such a great degree.”

Find out more

Download the Work Counts briefing paper, below.

Read related article OECD report offers a roadmap to address employment inequities

Read related article Increasing access to employment support is central to a transformed mental health and addiction system



pdf, 246 KB

Read time: 3.5min


Galletly C., Castle D., et al. (2016). Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists clinical practice guidelines for the management of schizophrenia and related disorders. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.

Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction (2018). He Ara Oranga: Report of the Government Inquiry into Mental Health and Addiction.

OECD (2018). Mental Health and Work: New Zealand. Mental Health and Work, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Hepburn, S. (2020). Bob Drake Says Employment is the Most Critical Intervention in Crisis Prevention and Recovery. #CrisisTalk website.

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