Few studies have explored the perspectives of front-line staff in Disability Employment Services (DES). This grounded theory study aimed to better understand the views and practices of employment specialists in relation to their work with clients with mental illness. In particular, it investigated what helped and hindered when working with this cohort of clients. Interviews were conducted with 16 employment specialists from one regional and three metropolitan DES in Victoria. The interviews were transcribed and analysed to explore the key themes. The substantive grounded theory of "Moving clients forward" will be presented, with themes including “taking a firm but fair approach”, “meeting clients where they are at”, “getting clients ready for work”, “managing the interface between clients and employers” and “working under pressure”. Furthermore, implications for employment services and clients with mental illness will be discussed.


Caitlin McDowell

PhD Candidate
La Trobe University

Caitlin McDowell is an occupational therapist and PhD Candidate at La Trobe University. Caitlin also works as a casual academic at La Trobe University and the Psychosocial Research Centre at The University of Melbourne. Her research has primarily focused on employment support for people living with mental illness.






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