S46: S46: SYMPOSIUM: Building Capacity for Work Participation: Diverse practices to overcome multifaceted disadvantages – building capabilities and supports for work participation

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By September 27, 2017 No Comments

Authors: Caitlin McDowell, Carol Harvey, Ellie Fossey, Joanne Robertson, Anne Williams, Patrizia Villotti, Marc Corbière, Franco Fraccaroli, Tania Lecomte

Year: 2017

Event: 2017 TheMHS Conference

Subject: symposium, workplace, employment

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers

Abstract: People with ongoing mental health issues experience multifaceted employment disadvantages not only resulting from disrupted work participation but also from the undermining effects of joblessness and unsupportive work practices. This symposium comprises three papers presenting research that sought to better understand practices in Australia that aimed to: i) support mental health consumers to explore and pursue self-chosen vocational directions; ii) support job seekers to find work through Disability Employment Services; and iii) create inclusive workplace based support for employees with mental health issues. The overall intent of the symposium is to highlight roles that mental health services, employment specialists and workplaces may each play in improving vocational opportunities and outcomes.

Paper 1 Title: ‘Starting out with The WORKS’: Vocational workshops as a guide for mental health consumers on their vocational journeys
Abstract: Tackling the gap between mental health and employment service provision locally, ‘Starting out with The WORKS’ is a workshop series introduced within a community mental health service. Designed to support consumers to explore their vocational aspirations, and how to pursue vocational options of their choosing, the workshops are co-facilitated by peer workers and occupational therapists. A mixed methods evaluation involving questionnaires and focus groups identified key themes, including: that the workshops supported realising qualities about yourself; realising you are not alone; and gaining fresh ideas and thinking about employment. Participants also valued that the workshops were co-facilitated by peer workers and occupational therapists. Within the service, the importance of vocational interventions and peer workers roles were also promoted.

Paper 2 Title: Moving clients forward: a grounded theory study of employment specialists' views and practices
Abstract: Disability Employment Services (DES) are funded by the government to assist individuals with mental illness, as well as those with disabilities, to get and keep a job. This study aimed to better understand the views and practices of front-line DES staff in relation to their work with clients with mental illness. Interviews were conducted with 16 employment specialists from one regional and three metropolitan DES in Victoria. The interviews were transcribed and analysed to explore the key themes. The substantive grounded theory of "Moving clients forward" will be presented, with themes including “taking a firm but fair approach”, “meeting clients where they are at”, “getting clients ready for work”, and “managing the interface between clients and employers. Furthermore, implications for mental health services and individuals with mental illness will be discussed.

Paper 3 Title: Work accommodations and natural supports for employees with severe mental illness in social businesses: what can be learnt from international comparisons?
Abstract: Work accommodations are adjustments to the workplace or workplace procedures that enable a person with special needs to perform the tasks required; workplaces may also have inherent features that are supportive (“natural supports”, e.g. support from supervisors). Little is known about their usefulness for people experiencing mental illnesses. We conducted a survey of work accommodations and natural supports available in Australian, Canadian and Italian social businesses (all in the cleaning sector), which was completed by 90 employees with self-reported psychiatric disabilities. Regardless of the country, social businesses provided many work accommodations and natural supports, especially those linked to schedule flexibility and support; work accommodations related to training and schedule flexibility were linked to longer job tenure. Findings highlight the importance of co-workers having better knowledge about how to support employees with severe mental illnesses, as well as identifying helpful workplace accommodations to guide the practices of employment specialists and employers.

Learning Objectives
People in the audience will learn about the usefulness of vocational workshops for mental health consumers from participant viewpoints, the views and practices of employment specialists working with job seekers with mental health issues in Disability Employment Services, and the spectrum of work accommodations and natural supports available to them in social businesses.

Waghorn, G., Saha, S., Harvey, C., Morgan, V. A., Waterreus, A., Bush, R., et al. (2012). 'Earning and learning' in those with psychiatric disorders: The second Australian national survey of psychosis. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 46(8), 774-785

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