In 2015 the then Prime Minister David Cameron asked Dame Carol Black to conduct a review into the effects drug and alcohol misuse, and obesity, have on employment outcomes. In this blog we comment on the findings of this recently-published review.

The Work Company welcomes the expert findings of Dame Carol Black and her team and their recommendations on how we may improve employment outcomes for people with a history of substance misuse.

We agree that treatment services, employers and the benefits system all have part to play in helping people to achieve their potential and look forward to the government’s proposals on how this may be brought to bear.

Since 2009 The Work Company has provided employment support to people in touch with treatment services across the North West of England and we were delighted to welcome Dame Carol and her team when they visited us to share our experiences of what we feel helps, and what we feel hinders, a person in recovery’s pursuit of employment.

It is heartening to read that “Evidence…suggests that employment can moderate relapse…and therefore should form part of ongoing recovery support” and that “work and other meaningful activity are essential elements in recovery”. This has long been our belief and was a core principle of the 2010 Drug Strategy; however as this report acknowledges, we are still some way from this being realised.

The report makes reference to the role to be played by Jobcentre Plus and their potential contribution cannot be underestimated. However we also see a role for the type of specialist support that Dame Carol recommends coming from within treatment services themselves. Of the £830m spent in 2014/15 by Local Authority commissioning on drug and alcohol support it would interesting to know how much of this was directed to “recovery support” - an element that very clearly sits inside their remit - and within which, this review confirms employment to be a key factor. There will always of course be a potential requirement for medical intervention and for psycho-social support but the pendulum has started to slowly swing in the direction of whole-person recovery and a focus on a life beyond treatment. We believe that pendulum could do with a nudge.

The Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model referenced in the review has clear benefits and could be said to represent best practice. However we recognise that a pure “hifi” version of IPS is also expensive to scale-up to the levels that might be required. We think there is fertile middle ground where specialist employment support - integrated within treatment services (central to the IPS approach) - can add real value and enable many more people in recovery to secure and maintain a job  - and with it a home and a wider social network. All of which cannot but help to improve people’s chances of maintaining recovery. We firmly believe that work is an integral part of the recovery deal, without which the journey cannot be said to be truly complete. Dame Carol’s report represents a significant step in setting out a route map to progress this important work. We very much hope that Government – having commissioned her report - will listen attentively to her findings.