Social Finance has this week launched, Health and Employment Partnerships, which aims to help every person with a health condition improve their wellbeing through fulfilling, sustained employment. The launch event in Parliament brought together commissioners, service providers and impact investors looking to develop new services that span the traditional boundaries of health and employment provision.

For 5 million people, living with a health condition or a disability, achieving sustained employment has often been beyond their reach.

This issue has garnered increasing interest from politicians, employers and health services, and there are no shortage of interventions in the market: a plethora of proposed methods have been discussed in various policy documents, conferences and government consultations. The Joint DWP and DH Health and Work Unit have £40 million to fund innovation and £20 million to support Social Impact Bonds in mental health and employment. The NHS has committed £100 million to employment support in mental health services and devolution areas are increasingly focused on health and work as a major social challenge they can unite to tackle. However, no one service has, as yet, been able to plug the gap in the job market for those with health issues.

Social Finance has recognised the need for a more holistic approach to the design of health and employment services. Health and Employment Partnerships believes that in bringing together two distinct, but closely linked services, there is the potential to make great strides in improving individual outcomes, making employment a core part of recovery.

The first step in this journey has been the development of the first Social Impact Bond in health and employment with a specific focus on mental health. Under this model, Cabinet and Big Lottery Fund co-pay for Individual Placement and Support (IPS) services on a payment-by-outcomes basis. The programme is helping 2,500 people over three years across London and the West Midlands, using the Individual Placement and Support model. With £400,000 of socially motivated capital raised from Big Issue Invest, the programme has already started achieving concrete job outcomes.

Health and Employment Partnerships also believes the principles of health-based employment support can be applied to many different groups of people. The team are working with Tower Hamlets council to explore the potential for a Social Impact Bond to finance employment services for adults with learning disabilities. Another future area of focus are older workers, and the team are engaging with ministers, the Centre for Ageing Better, and others to find a route forward to support older workers at risk of involuntary early retirement.

The recognition of work as a positive influence on health has been understood since as early as the 2nd century. [1] Work has proven potential to improve our wellbeing: it gives us a purpose, a salary and is a crucial factor in avoiding both physical and mental health issues. Employment also delivers government savings: one person with a health condition moving back into work can generate £5-10k in savings or higher tax receipts.[2] It is clear that interventions are most successful when all parties work simultaneously: when the service user, health clinician, employment specialist and commissioner are fully focussed on employment as a means to improving the user’s wellbeing and aiding their recovery from their health issues. Health and Employment Partnerships hopes to do just this.

Hannah Butler, Social Finance

[1] Bob Grove, International employment schemes for people with mental health problems
[2] MHEP SIB Summary – Social Finance