Employment services and work-based supports are critically important in an economic downturn, especially for the most vulnerable populations. MDRC’s recent virtual discussions with two employment providers, as part of the Building Evidence on Employment Strategies for Low-Income Families project, highlighted the creative means nonprofit employment programs have found to help people facing multiple serious barriers to finding and keeping jobs, while keeping clients and staff members safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] Both providers we interviewed, the Family Service League (FSL), a grassroots social service agency in the state of New York, and Asian Human Services (AHS), a Chicago-based provider of social services, use the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) employment model, which proved flexible in the unprecedented conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The IPS model, an evidence-based framework for providing employment services, originally designed for individuals with serious mental illness served by community mental health centers, is now also used to promote employment for a broader range of populations with significant barriers to employment. It focuses on several core components, some key ones of which are shown in Figure 1.[2] There is extensive evidence of IPS’s success with people with serious mental illness, with over 25 randomized controlled trials showing its effectiveness in improving employment outcomes for target populations.[3]

The pandemic pushed many IPS providers to innovate and adopt technology and new forms of engagement to better meet their clients where they are. Both FSL and AHS reported that many crisis-driven changes will remain regular parts of their service delivery once the pandemic is over.

Read the full article about employment help during a crisis by Peter Baird at MDRC.