The IPS Team at Livewell South West launched the service in the middle of August 2021 with the whole team joining during the pandemic. We have spoken with the Team Leader, Flippa and Employment Specialists', Brett and Ewa, who have shared their experience to date.
What was your experience of starting the service during lockdown?
Ewa: “The Livewell IPS Service launched in the middle of August so we are still understanding where they sit in the middle of the transformation, but we’ve made a good effort to get ourselves visible to both clinicians and clients. Understandably, it was a difficult time balancing a new service launch, working from home, meeting clients virtually, and employers.
It was really important for us to establish ourselves and take part in MDTs. This was particularly the case for clarity as we’d joined an old service that was entering into a new structure. Luckily, this hasn’t affected referrals, I would say that it is an untapped area for the CMH service.
Being available to the CMH service has been helpful, we are able to show that what offer, and prove that our work is important. We had some challenges in the beginning, but we are learning as we go along. I feel more optimistic now than I was when the lockdown was introduced. The kind of work and services we offer has never been done before. Not many services have been able to raise hope for clients seeking employment as we have.”
Flippa added: “We spent the first few months setting things up, meeting people virtually, going to COPs and learning about IPS. This meant that when the service launched fully in August, we were ready. During this initial period, Flippa reflected that both the COPs and IPS Grow website was very useful, providing resources in terms of information, structure, and assistance.”
Flippa noted: “It was also important to have the support of our managers at Livewell who stood behind us and the service despite lots of changes and hurdles it was problem solving and finding solutions at its best”
What has been a highlight or something positive which has come out during this time?
Brett: “A client I was recently working with mentioned that he felt so much better about the future. Working with IPS gave him hope. I think the highlight for me is seeing the change in clients. When we first started, it was hard to get referrals. But now there is a greater change in the attitude towards Mental Health and services like IPS.”
Flippa: “Admittedly, this season has been tough for everyone, but this has also brought us together as a team. It’s also given us access to the wider IPS community which has provided a lot of support and we’ve managed to recruit someone for our 4th post, which has been very exciting”
Ewa: “A highlight has got to be a client, who was out of work for over 5 years who has now secured employment through the service. She was initially skeptical about going back into work, but we worked very closely with her and supported her through her worries and queries. We helped her to find a job that was similar to the role she had previously, which made her feel empowered and more confident to work again.
We’ve also made a lot of progress with other services. Services needed some time to understand our work and structure, now most services are keen to engage with us. We have managed to achieve quite a lot. We are feeling very positive and optimistic, we are eagerly waiting for 2021.”
What have you struggled with during this time?
Ewa: “Getting our heads around the new structure was initially hard. We have become more accustomed to the new routine and structure, so it is much easier moving forward.”
Brett: “Not being able to meet and interact with people face to face has been one of the hardest things for me. I have managed to adapt to this new reality, it took some adjusting, but things are getting better.”
What are you most looking forward to when the lockdown lifts?
Ewa: “Holidays! I look forward to going out and enjoying places without experiencing so many restrictions.”
Brett: “I look forward to having more personal contact with people.”
Flippa: “I agree with Brett, personally and professionally, I look forward to having more personal contact with people. I am learning the importance of boundaries, especially in this season as I am working from home. I having to implement practices that help me to separate my personal and professional work.”
What would you say you’ve learned during this time?
Brett: “I was not very technically minded before I had this job. One of the biggest things I have had to overcome has been learning how to use software like Windows or Microsoft Teams.”
Ewa: “It has been such a joy to work to the IPS model and with this team. This is an amazing and special team, and I am really proud to be a part of it, I cannot imagine being with another team. In the last 10 years of my employment, I have worked in structured clinical, mental, and physical health services. Working for IPS allows me to help others see the potential in patients with Mental Health issues, that they can be creative and bring change into the world, if we are willing to work, empower and support them through the difficult times.”
Flippa: “I love being able to connect with people from different services. I have never been in a service, where there is so much generosity and inspirational support internally and externally. I don’t think other members of IPS know how much of an impact they have; it is very inspirational to watch them work and accomplish their goals.”
What message would you like to share with others in the IPS community during this time?
Flippa: “I would love to say thank you for your support! Keep going, you are all amazing. The incredible work you do to help and empower people, who tend to be overlooked and often seen as disadvantaged is incredible.
Some community centre services mentioned that they have never received this kind of service before. They mentioned that it raises the hopes of their clients, helps them to think about other ideas. By making our services available, more people are beginning to learn about what we do and offer, and difference we make by helping people understand the importance of work and employment.”
Ewa: “Thank you all for your hard work. I am very proud to be part of a team, that brings such great hope and change to clients. It is hard to imagine what would happen to our clients without our support.
We should all be proud for what we have accomplished this year. Employment is not merely about money, it also concerns purpose, who you are, what you enjoy, and I enjoy being part of a team that helps clients get their identity and joy back.”