Motivating long-term social assistance recipients towards employment - SRDC

Motivating long-term social assistance recipients towards employment

September 11, 2014


Today SRDC releases the results of the Motivational Interviewing pilot project (MIPP). Motivational Interviewing is a counselling approach with a proven track record in addiction treatment and criminal rehabilitation. The SRDC study found that the use of this approach can also improve employment prospects for some long-term income assistance recipients.

Motivational Interviewing addresses attitudes that keep many people from making desired changes in their lives. It works by helping people to realize that change is necessary and achievable. The core concept is that each person takes ownership of the process that will bring about the change.

The new program was piloted in two Fraser Valley communities in cooperation with British Columbia’s Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation. Employment and Social Development Canada funded the study, which involved a random assignment design — one of the most rigorous forms of program evaluation.

For the trial, some employment assistance workers in the communities received training in Motivational Interviewing. Consenting participants were randomly assigned to either a program group who received services from the trained case workers or a control group whose case workers were not trained in the approach.

For all long-term income assistance recipients offered Motivational Interviewing, employment rates increased by 7.8 percentage points relative to the control group over the three-month follow-up period. Employment in the program group increased from 3.5 to 9.4 per cent, while it decreased from 4.0 to 2.0 per cent in the control group.

While the scale of these changes may appear modest, they reflect the many limitations that affect the participants’ ability to work. Given these barriers, the program-induced increase in employment is an important achievement.

The project represented a new approach to addressing such employment barriers among long-term income assistance recipients. Some obstacles, such as low levels of education or a lack of marketable skills, can be readily identified and are the subject of numerous employment development programs. However, long-term reliance on income assistance can create internal barriers to change that may limit the effectiveness of such skill-development programs. The project demonstrated that Motivational Interviewing can help some employment services clients overcome such internal barriers to employment.

An expansion of the current study involving a larger sample of participants, preferably with random assignment of case workers, is recommended to draw firmer conclusions about the value of integrating Motivational Interviewing into client interactions in income assistance and employment services centres. From a larger sample, subgroups most likely to benefit from the technique can be identified.

SRDC continues to work with provincial governments to explore the use of Motivational Interviewing and other approaches to promote labour market integration of their unemployed populations.

Read the Executive Summary.

Read the Full Report.

For more information, please contact:

Reuben Ford
Research director, SRDC
[email protected]

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