Unique employment support programme extended amid concern over the economic and mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic

An employment support programme which is the first of its kind in Wales has been extended, amid concern over the economic and mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

People struggling to find or hold down a job because of mental health difficulties are being encouraged to take advantage of the I CAN Work programme, which provides intensive support from employment specialists and health professionals.

Following a successful 12 month pilot, which saw 500 individuals supported across North Wales, the programme has been extended for a further six months, with funding from the Welsh Government.

The economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis is expected to have a significant impact on employment, with more than a fifth of UK employers planning to make redundancies in the coming months. Young people and the lowest paid are expected to be hardest hit, with women more adversely affected than men.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board is also anticipating an upsurge in mental health referrals as the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown begins to make itself felt.

Daniel Davies from Prestatyn is one of a number of people who have been supported by the I CAN Work programme.

The 27 year old trained chef experienced anxiety and low mood after spending five months out of work, before the I CAN Work programme helped him find a job with the catering team at Glan Clwyd Hospital in March 2020.

He said: “My confidence and anxiety were shot after receiving a number of knock backs and I felt like giving up. But my I CAN Work employment specialist was amazing and helped to boost my self-esteem by sending me on a confidence boosting course.

“She was very proactive and understood what type of work would suit me, rather than pushing me towards any old job.

“The programme has helped to give me a more positive outlook on life. I’ve joined the gym and started to love and care for myself again. I believe I CAN Work can help you no matter what your issues are.”

I CAN Work is being led by Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board and delivered in partnership with personal support services charity CAIS, and the Rhyl City Strategy, who have successful track records of helping people into work.

Llinos Edwards, Service Improvement Manager at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, said: “We know that many people experiencing mental health problems want to work, but sometimes need extra support to do so. Sadly we know that there will also be many people who lose their jobs in the coming months.

“We want to encourage anybody who is struggling to please get in touch so our I CAN Work employment specialists can provide the intensive support required to help them find and remain in employment.

“People can self-refer to I CAN Work or be referred by their GP or any other healthcare professional. For many of the 500 people supported over the past 12 months, making contact with I CAN Work has been the first step in improving their mental health and employment prospects.”

I CAN Work is based on the principles of the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) employment programme, which is used across the world and is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as the leading model to help people with poor mental health into work. It is the first time that this approach has been adopted on a large scale in Wales.

I CAN Work is one of a range of initiatives which form part of the health board’s I CAN campaign, which aims to provide earlier support and empower people to take control of their mental health.

For further information please visit https://bcuhb.nhs.wales/i-can/i-can-work/