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Advice for drug workers re drug users and employment

The reintegration and recovery of drug users is at the heart of the new drug strategy.

A key part of this is the support that drug users in treatment require to move them closer to the labour market and the NTA will be working closely with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that this support is firmly embedded within the drug treatment system.

Part of this work requires challenging barriers to getting drug users into a job or placed as volunteers.

One such barrier is the so-called "two years rule" or the requirement by some employers – including some drug treatment services – that people need to be drug-free for a specified length of time before they can be considered suitable to take up employment or volunteering opportunities.

However, never having been endorsed as national policy by any government department or by the NTA, this was never actually a 'rule' and the application has proved to be of little use in terms of a universal rule to determine an individual's appropriateness or readiness for employment or volunteering.

Despite this there is still an inconsistent approach to the employment of current and ex-service users and many organisations are confused over the practicalities involved.

To help un-ravel this, the NTA is restating common sense good practice messages from existing guidance (available here), which collectively outlines a more flexible approach that employers can take to employing current or ex-service users.

In addition. the NTA and Jobcentre Plus have been working closely with drug treatment providers to establish referral pathways in to treatment for customers who identify that substance misuse is a barrier to work, and have now published a Joint-working Protocol between Jobcentre Plus and treatment providers. The protocol has been developed to support closer collaboration between the agencies and to promote more effective and coordinated actions to address the employment-related needs of people who are in treatment for their substance misuse.

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