An employment service supporting people who are struggling with serious mental health issues has been granted more than £3,200 to provide laptops on loan to access job applications and interviews.
The Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Employment Service, run by Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), supports people who are being treated by the Trust’s Community Mental Health Teams to find, or stay in, paid work.
Many of these people do not have stable access to the internet or a laptop – which are now more vital than ever for successful job hunting, with COVID-19 driving most job assessments and interviews online, and libraries, Job Centres and other places usually offering free computer access being closed during the lockdown restrictions.
The laptops will be loaned to people across north Cumbria and the North East who are receiving support from the IPS team, for about two months at a time when the person is ready to start applying and interviewing for jobs. The team hope that about 20 people per year will benefit from this pilot scheme.
John Bolland, Service Lead for the Individual Placement Support (IPS) Employment Service, said: “Without a computer and internet connection at home, the practicalities of modern job-hunting are a really big roadblock to someone getting into work.
“Even when libraries and Job Centres are open, who would perform at their best conducting a video interview from a public space? Or having to make an appointment and go to a specific centre just to check your emails for news of an application?
“We hope this pilot will be a pioneering way of helping to end the cycle faced by some of the people we support, where they don’t have the money to purchase a computer or a good internet connection, but because of that they can’t get a job to get the funds they need.
“This project will undoubtedly help some of the people we support secure their dream jobs, improving their mental health in the process.”
The grant £3,240 grant has been awarded by The SHINE Fund, the official charity of CNTW which uses donations to provide the ‘little extras’ that make a big difference to people’s recovery.
This includes a sizeable donation to the fund distributed by NHS Charities Together from their national COVID-19 appeal.
The SHINE Fund grant has been used to purchase and maintain four laptops, which will also come with a 4G internet connection (meaning no home broadband is needed to access the internet).
Each loan laptops will be cleaned, and their profile wiped by CNTW’s Informatics department before being passed on to the next user. They will also be able to be remotely controlled, so that IPS staff can provide direct support if someone is struggling, for example, with using a site or software.
Jane, who lives in north Cumbria and is being supported by the IPS Employment Service, explained why this project is so important for people like her. “At the moment one of my mental health workers has to do a lot of the online stuff for me, like typing up my CV,” she said.
“That means everything takes a lot longer – and it’s nice to have the help, but sometimes I’d rather do these things myself, be a bit more independent.
“These days everything is ‘go online at www dot’, and I think, well I can’t. Especially now places like libraries are closed. I feel quite excluded from things, which is frustrating.
“I have to telephone to get information, which sometimes means waiting a long time to speak to someone, and then they just try and direct me to information online – which I can’t access.
“Loaning a laptop through this project will really help me with all of that stuff.”