Q: What is Vocational Rehabilitation?
A: Vocational rehabilitation is essentially a process to enable an individual to work. More specifically, it is a planned and guided course of action to provide the means by which a person with illness or disability can work.
As occupational therapists, we deliver vocational rehabilitation. However, we define ‘work’ in a much broader sense than is generally used in everyday language. ‘Work’ is any form of productive activity within a given community, paid or unpaid. Thus, a ‘worker role’ may entail volunteering, childcare, self-employment, employment and so forth.
At KMA we know that there is no ‘cookbook recipe’ to deliver a successful vocational rehabilitation outcome. Every person is unique, their goals, dreams, responsibilities and personal challenges will not be the same as the next person. It takes a skilful practitioner to help each individual navigate their journey to success.
Q : How Does the Process Work?
A: At KMA, we know the three key ingredients for a successful vocational rehabilitation outcome.
First, we start with the person. We know that, as our client, they are the expert, they know their strengths, their limitations and their aspirations. We seek to discover their drive, their passions and their motivations. Sometimes these need re-kindling. Other times a significant traumatic event, such as a brain injury, means that the person needs to get to know themselves all over again. We help them to do this. To re-build their life. We embark on a shared journey towards an agreed goal. I will be talking more about working with the individual later on in the blog.
Next, we look at the person’s work. What was their work role before the accident or illness?
We analyse the skills, abilities and demands of a given job. We use our clinical knowledge and experience to identify any mis-matches between the person as we know them and their worker role. Our clinical reasoning helps shape our plans. Given what we know, how likely is it that the person will be able to return to their previous role? Does something have to change in order for them to do so? How far away, in recovery terms, is the person from their destination? Perhaps they will need to embark on a different track. We know that having a work role, or a ‘meaningful occupational routine’ as we would call it, is vital for health and well-being.
The workplace is the third and final ingredient in our vocational rehabilitation pathway. We investigate: what policies and procedures will govern the return of our client to this workplace? What are the employer’s views? The Line Manager? HR? Can accommodations be made? Are there alternative job roles available if necessary? See further on in the blog about how we typically work with employees and their employers.
Ultimately, we ask ourselves: how can all parties work together to achieve a positive and sustainable return to work outcome for this individual? What has to happen to achieve a successful outcome?
Have a read of our vocational rehabilitation page here
Q: How Do You Work With the Individual?
A: We would start with completing a comprehensive functional needs assessment, which sets out to understand the employee, their job role and any functional limitations or barriers to occupational performance. From this clear goals and timeframes can be set. We consider how we can best support the person to engage in a meaningful, sustainable, occupational routine.
Where possible we would meet with the employee at their workplace, to review the job role, demands, environment and expectations of the employer and how these might impact on the individual.
Why is Work Important?
Work gives us a sense of purpose
Work offers us a sense of well-being
Work enables us to have a sense of satisfaction
Work gives us a sense of achievement
Q: How Do you Work with Both the Employee and Employer?
We work within a vocational case management model and framework. We work collaboratively with the individual, their employer, HR and Line Manager, taking into account the needs of the individual and organisation in which they work, ensuring that any recommendations are appropriate for all.
This transparent style of working enables all parties to communicate openly and work together to identify what the barriers are to achieving a sustainable work routine and problem solve accordingly. If a person has been absent from work, we would look to develop a Graded Return to Work Plan, which would enable a person to return to the workplace in a sustainable and achievable way, reducing the chance of future absence. We might also support the employee to develop a Wellness Recovery Action Plan, which is shared with their employer. This document highlights what a person needs to remain well and what measures should be put in place – should their health deteriorate again in the future.
Q: Do you Find There’s a Time Pressure From the Employer?
A: Companies will have their own policies and procedures which might influence how they manage sickness absence or a person’s return to work. It is important that the occupational therapist understands these when formulating a vocational rehabilitation and/or graded return to work. The Equality Act protects those employees with an illness or disability which has a substantial and long-term effect on their functioning. For these individuals, it ensures that the employer makes reasonable adjustments and accommodations for the individual to return.
If you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact the KMA office on 01264326308