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Living with M.E.

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SEE M.E. project

Our SEE M.E. project

Support, Empower and Employ people with M.E. (SEE M.E.) was an innovative pilot project that transformed employment outcomes for people with M.E. in the South West. By responding directly to the needs of people with M.E., and those that support them, SEE M.E. provided crucial tailored and expert support, empowering people with M.E. to stay in work, return to work or leave work well. 

Remarkable results

The project employed specialist employment support staff with experience of M.E, embedding them within the specialist Bristol NHS M.E. clinic, where more they worked with more than 120 people with M.E. over 12 months between 2015 and 2016. Independent evaluation of the project found that 72% of SEE M.E. clients achieved their employment goal, including:

  • successfully returning to their job after lengthy sickness absence
  • starting a new job
  • achieving their best possible exit from unsustainable employment
  • achieving more sustainable existing employment
  • starting volunteering or a training course.
"SEE M.E. supported me with my confidence being back at work with my condition, knowing that I’m not alone, knowing my rights and pacing myself." 

The project also demonstrated significant value for employers and clinicians.

  • 60% of clinicians said SEE M.E. freed up clinical time previously spent supporting patients with their employment needs. This time saving of saving of two hours per week equates to £24,000 per annum.
  • 83% employers or union representatives said SEE M.E. made a positive difference to their anticipated case outcome.

Essential resources: free to download

Should you be unable to view or download any of these resources, please contact us to request a copy.

Using the knowledge and experience gained through SEE M.E., we have: 

  • updated our M.E. and work booklet for people with M.E., focusing on employment rights, support available including Access to Work, what you can do if you do lose your job and welfare benefits plus other work-related finances
  • updated our An employer's guide to M.E. booklet, with advice on employers’ legal responsibilities, reasonable adjustments, managing sickness absence and sick pay, and recruiting and supporting people with M.E.
  • produced a new SEE M.E. toolkit for professionals.

The professionals' toolkit supports specialist M.E. clinicians, employment advisers, work coaches and careers guidance practitioners to understand M.E. from their client’s unique point of view and personal experience, and integrate the support they offer and work collaboratively with other support professionals.

The toolkit also sets out how advisors can:

  • plan for M.E.-appropriate work by encouraging their client to explore their skills and interests
  • advise on if, how and when their client should disclose their M.E. to their employer
  • support their client to identify challenges, needs and solutions
  • discuss potential support such as flexible working arrangements, reasonable adjustments and Access to Work
  • support their client to consider how they can effectively sustain work
  • signpost to in-work welfare advice, such as our Welfare Advice and Support Service
  • advise their client on how to leave work well where their health prevents them from working.

We are now undertaking a programme of work to engage with professional bodies and roll out the toolkit, including offering specialist training for employers to improve how they support their employees with M.E.


How was SEE M.E. set up?

People who have M.E. tell us that they, their employer and the people supporting them need more information about how to effectively manage M.E. at work.

We developed SEE M.E. in response to this, delivering it in partnership with the specialist M.E. clinic at North Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, Action on Disability and Work UK, Jobcentre Plus, Remploy and Pluss (an award-winning social enterprise). The project was funded by SEE M.E. was funded by the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund, the Henry Smith Charity, Lloyds Bank Foundation, Rayne Foundation, Denman Charitable Trust and Dame Violet Wills Trust.

SEE M.E. aimed to support people with M.E. living in Bristol, North Somerset, Gloucestershire and South Gloucester to stay in work, return to work or leave work well. By developing and demonstrating good practices in integrated health and employment support for people with M.E., the project raised aspirations and helped individuals to achieve their goals in relation to employment.

Benefits for clients have included increased knowledge about rights, entitlements, welfare benefits and available services, as well as increased confidence to achieve their desired employment goal. In addition, most individuals have reported an improvement in their sense of well-being as a result of the impact SEE M.E. support has had on their employment situation.