Announcement due on employment scheme for drug misusers

Organisations hoping to run the specialist support part of the
government’s campaign to help drug misusers back into
employment are due to find out this month whether their bids have
been successful, writes Katie Leason.

Thousands of drug misusers are set to be helped into work by the
new scheme which is due to kick off in March.

Under the “progress2work” project the employment service will
take responsibility for helping working age people with drug
problems into jobs.

Over the next two years drug co-ordinators will be placed in
every employment service unit of delivery. Their role will be to
help drug users coming out of treatment to get access to services
to help them on the road to employment. They will also ensure that
any job seekers with drug problems are referred for appropriate

The drug co-ordinators will set up action plans with the drug
action teams to address any gaps in provision, and train front line
staff in how to recognise drug misuse.

Speaking at the Drugscope conference last week, Mike Stewart,
director of the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, said that
while participation in the scheme is voluntary and targeted at
individuals with a history of serious drug abuse, he expects 20 per
cent to find jobs.

Thirty areas have been selected for the start of the project in
March, 60 for 2003, and the rest of England, Wales and Scotland the
following year.

“If it is seen as successful as a model then it can be extended
to other hard to help groups,” said Stewart.

Pilot projects were set up last spring to test different models
of delivery in Glasgow, Liverpool, Plymouth, Stevenage, and two in
London, and participants have been tracked quarterly. Findings show
that there is a high level of attrition during the early stages,
but that many participants return.

Mike McCarron, co-ordinator of Greater Glasgow drug action team
and chair of the DAT employment sub-action group, said that the
pilot in Glasgow has been a success. More than 100 former drug
misusers have moved into jobs over the last year.

“What we’re aiming at is over the next year to see 1,000
ex drug users actively taking up opportunities in pathways to
employment,” said McCarron. “It is the most important policy
initiative available which we must make work.”

The project has £40 million funding over three years at the
end of which it will become a mainstream project.





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