Previous studies have shown that Disability Insurance (DI) beneficiaries may have substantial remaining capacity to work (Bound, 1989; French & Song, 2014; Maestas, Mullen, & Strand, 2013). This motivated social security administrations to implement Active Labour Market Policies that encourage DI beneficiaries to return to work.
In this study, we evaluate the effects of an innovative employment support program aimed at DI beneficiaries with a mental condition. The program is based on the “Individual Placement and Support” (IPS) model (treatment condition). We compare this new program with traditional rehabilitation services based on vocational training (control condition).
Vocational training has been traditionally favoured to help DI beneficiaries to return to work. It relies on the assumption that DI recipients should first rebuild a working capacity and afterwards reintegrate the job market. This approach is often called “train-then-place”. In Belgium, it is managed by the public employment centres since 2012. The program includes three phases supervised by employment specialists: 1) assessment of an individual’s rehabilitation needs, 2) vocational training, and finally 3) job search counselling. The whole process might be quite lengthy (in Belgium, it spans on average a period of 12 months, with trainings of about 6 months).
The IPS model of supported employment proposes to inverse this traditional "train-then-place" approach with a "place-then-train" approach that should favour quick insertion into the labour market and afterwards, if necessary, on-the-job training. The program relies on job coaches who help DI beneficiaries to find and retain a job that fits their mental health condition.The IPS model is based on several principles (R. Drake, Bond, & Becker, 2012), including:
- “rapid job search” (i.e. participants should quickly have face-to-face contacts with potential employers);
- “competitive employment” (i.e. no sheltered or voluntary work);
- “follow-along support” (i.e. continuous coaching, even after a job has been found);
- “integrated services” (i.e. job coaches work closely with mental healthcare specialists).