Addicts ‘not given a second chance’

Two thirds of employers would refuse to give a job to a former heroin or crack cocaine addict, even if they were otherwise suitable for the job.

The figures could not come at a worse time for the government, with last week’s welfare reform package containing several measures to get addicts back into employment.

“This report highlights the formidable barriers to employment faced by problem drug users, not least the stigma faced by people in drug treatment and the concerns of prospective employers,” said DrugScope chief executive Martin Barnes.

“We can see little in the government’s proposed welfare reforms which will directly address these important issues.”

Today’s research, by the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC), concluded employers needed more support – and possibly financial incentives – to bring former addicts into their companies.

It also suggests incorporating former addicts into the upcoming equality bill, alongside sexuality, religion and race.

“This review suggests that, if we are going to make serious headway in reducing drug misuse, employers need to be prepared to consider hiring suitable candidates who are recovering from a history of drug problems,” said John Varley, UKDPC president and group chief executive of Barclays.

“Employment is a key source of rehabilitation and reintegration into society.”
Last week’s welfare reform white paper called for benefits sanctions against those who do not try to make themselves suitable for employment, including drug treatment.

There are about 400,000 heroin and crack users in the UK and that about 80 per cent of them are not in employment.

A Department for Work and Pensions report suggested up to 240,000 problem drug users in England may be receiving out-of-work benefits – representing about seven per cent of Jobseekers Allowance and Incapacity Benefit recipients.