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Intensive Client Support (ICS) service

Work undertaken in 2012-2013 indicated people who entered the benefit system before they turn 20 generally have more complex challenges towards employment as adults, a higher risk of staying on benefit longer, and often require more support while on a benefit.

In response to this, MSD created a new case management approach - the Intensive Client Support (ICS) service. ICS service enabled participants to work collaboratively with their case manager to address their specific challenges and progress (stair-case) towards work-readiness before focusing on gaining employment.

Other key differences for ICS service included:

  • A specialised case manager – an Intensive Client Support Manager (ICSM)
  • A smaller caseload of 40 people (later increased to 60) allowing more time and flexibility to work with each participant
  • A holistic approach to support the participant and their whānau.

The ICS cohort included people who:

  • Entered the benefit system before the age of 20 [1], [2]
  • Received a Jobseeker – Work Ready (JS – WR) benefit at time of selection
  • Were aged 18-39 years at time of selection (later changed to 25-39 years old).

[1] While there was some variation for age of first benefit between the ICS trial and ICS-X trial, it was always before the age of 20.

[2] There were some exemptions if a person previously received a sickness-based benefit.

ICS trial (March 2015 - March 2018)

The ICS trial was a randomised control trial designed to measure the effectiveness of the ICS service when compared to other business-as-usual services. Qualitative evaluations looked at how the service operated and sought insights into participants’ experiences of receiving ICS service.

The first evaluation to be released is a qualitative 24-month case study report from Gravitas Research. Quantitative evaluation results will be published later in 2021.

Key findings from the case studies report

  • Participants prefer the ICS service approach over other services
  • ICSMs used stair-casing techniques effectively to help participants into sustainable employment, however the degree of success varied among participants and depended on their individual circumstances

Download the report

ICS-X trial (from March 2018)

Building on the success of the original trial, the ICS service was expanded under the Intensive Client Support – Extension (ICS-X) trial. Changes to the ICS service included:

  • Scaling up from five to 22 sites, increasing the number of participants from 360 to 1500 in ICS service at any time
  • Broadening eligibility to include people receiving the Jobseeker – Health Condition and Disability (JS – HCD) benefit at time of selection, who had also entered the benefit system before the age of 20
  • Adding ‘Navigators’ to the service - people who provided additional support in the community, beyond the Work and Income office.

The first report to be published is the qualitative 12-month process review and client case stories evaluation. Quantitative findings at 12- and 24-months will be published later in 2021.

Key findings of the 12-month process review and client case stories report

  • Participants receiving the ICS service felt they were treated more “like a person” than they had been in previous Work and Income experiences
  • Important qualities for Intensive Client Support Managers (ICSMs, the specialised case managers) included being empathetic and non-judgemental to form relationships with participants, and having strong networks with other service organisations to refer participants to for additional support
  • Positive changes for participants were consistent with the ‘staircasing’ approach to employment, though success depended on a strong relationship with the ICSM
  • Further improvements could be made to the ICS service, such as ring-fencing the ICSM role, better clarity on the Navigator’s role and consistency in training for ICSMs.

Download the report

For enquiries about this research, please email

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