Senior Policy Officer
London Drug and Alcohol Network
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The HRZone community will already be well aware that getting people ‘back to work’ and reducing the welfare bill are central to this government’s ambitions.
What may not be so familiar is the way in which this broader political context is reflected in policy on treatment for drug and alcohol problems. The vision of recovery that’s currently driving developments in the treatment field is not only about helping people break free from addiction, but ensuring they are (re)integrated back into society. Employment is seen as a key component of success, and with good reason: evidence has shown that gaining and maintaining employment helps ensure that recovery from drug or alcohol dependency is long lasting. But we are in very difficult economic times. Being realistic, this means that more than ever, having a past history of drug and alcohol misuse won’t be first on many person specs. Nor are people with a history of drug and alcohol problems protected by the same legal framework that applies to people with physical disabilities or mental health problems, notably the Equalities Act 2010. The perception of many employers is that recruiting people who have a past history of drug or alcohol misuse is high risk. Two-thirds of employers surveyed for a UKDPC report indicated that they would refuse to employ a former heroin or crack cocaine user, even if they had the competencies required for the job. Almost half (48 per cent) said any offer of employment would depend on the type and/or level of past drug use. Clearly, there are many barriers to overcome. DrugScope’s London Drug and Alcohol Network, a membership body for drug and alcohol services in the capital, is entering the second phase of a Trust for London-funded project to improve access to employment for people recovering from substance misuse problems. In our next blog, we will discuss what we think needs to happen to help break down these barriers and get people into work. In the meantime, what do you think? Paul Anders is senior policy officer for charity DrugScope’s London Drug and Alcohol Network.
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