Background: Employment is intrinsic to recovery from mental health conditions, helping people live independently. Systematic reviews indicate supported employment (SE) focused on competitive employment, including individual placement and support (IPS), is effective in helping people with mental health conditions into work. Evidence is limited on cost-effectiveness. We comprehensively reviewed evidence on the economic case for SE/IPS programmes.
Methods: We searched PubMed/MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, CINAHL, IBSS, Business Source Complete, and EconLit for economic and return on investment analyses of SE/IPS programmes for mental health conditions. Traditional vocational rehabilitation, sheltered work, and return to work initiatives after sickness absence of less than 1 year were excluded. Studies were independently screened by two reviewers. We assessed quality using the Consolidate Health Economic Evaluation Reporting Standards checklist. The protocol was preregistered with PROSPERO-CRD42020184359.
Results: From 40,015 references, 28 studies examined the economic case for IPS, four IPS augmented by another intervention, and 24 other forms of SE. Studies were very heterogenous, quality was variable. Of 41 studies with quality scores over 50%, 10 reported cost per quality-adjusted life year gained, (8 favourable to SE/IPS), 14 net monetary benefits (12 positive), 5 return on investment (4 positive), and 20 cost per employment outcome (14 favorable, 5 inconclusive, 1 negative). Totally, 24 of these 41 studies had monetary benefits that more than outweighed the additional costs of SE/IPS programmes.
Conclusions: There is a strong economic case for the implementation of SE/IPS programmes. The economic case is conservative as evidence on long-term impacts of programmes is limited.
Keywords: Cost-effectiveness; economic evaluation; individual placement and support; supported employment.