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Paul Anders

London Drug and Alcohol Network

Senior Policy Officer

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Blog: What are the benefits of hiring a recovering alcoholic or drug user?


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 last blog, we discussed the barriers that can hold people back. So are there any positives? 
Well, we believe there are. We have found that – on the whole – people are more sympathetic to people with a history of addiction problems than you might expect. For instance, most people understand that the reasons behind someone developing a problem with drugs or alcohol are complex. 
A DrugScope/ICM poll of over 1000 members of the general public found that 80 per cent agreed that “people can become addicted to drugs because of other problems in their lives”. People may start to use drugs and/or alcohol to cope with bereavement, relationship breakdown, stress or anxiety. 
Some 88 per cent of respondents to the survey agreed that “people who have become addicted to drugs need help and support to get their lives back on track”. And a staggering one in five (19 per cent) admitted that they had “personal experience of drug addiction”, either directly or in their own family or circle of friends.  
Realistic assessment
When you actually ask employers who have recruited people in recovery from drug and alcohol use, most report positive experiences; they “can prove to be extremely loyal and dependable employees, because they are very grateful to have been given the chance to turn their lives around” (Working towards recovery, 2008). 
People in recovery can demonstrate the characteristics employers look for: commitment, loyalty, ambition and talent. The drug and alcohol treatment sector recognises that if we’re going to succeed in supporting our service users to secure and keep good employment, we have also got to support you, the employers.  

Part of the picture is about readying our clients for work. For instance, you may not be aware that many drug and alcohol treatment centres provide Employment, Training and Education (ETE) services, enabling people to focus on the development of skills such as communication, assertiveness, active listening and team work – skills which are highly valued by employers. 

But as well as readying the clients, we also need to reach out and engage with you. We need to understand, acknowledge and address your concerns. We need to persuade you of the benefits – to your business and your workforce – of giving people a chance. 
We need to help you to make realistic assessment of potential problems and manage any risks effectively. For those business sectors or geographical areas with a labour shortage, we need to explain how people in recovery may be able to help fill the gap.  
HRZone will be publishing a feature from us soon which will address some of these practical issues. We’d very much welcome your feedback on it. 
Paul Anders is senior policy officer for charity DrugScope’s London Drug and Alcohol Network.

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Paul Anders

Senior Policy Officer

Read more from Paul Anders