Dame Carol Black’s review is a welcome contribution to the debate on employment

December 06, 2016

In July 2015 the then Prime Minister David Cameron asked Dame Carol Black to undertake an independent review into the impact that drug and alcohol problems and obesity have on employment outcomes. In this blog we respond to the findings of the review, which have been published today

Photo credit: Coventry City Council (used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Photo: Coventry City Council (used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

MEAM welcomes Dame Carol Black’s long-awaited review as an expert opinion on how we can improve the services and systems that should support people with drug and alcohol problems towards employment.

Many people with multiple needs have substance misuse problems and the report has implications for how they are supported to overcome barriers to work. We agree with her conclusion that treatment, the benefits system and employers all have vital roles to play.

Effective substance misuse treatment is vital to helping people move towards work, but as the report acknowledges, providing treatment alone is insufficient to achieve better employment outcomes. Instead, it needs to form part of a wider approach that addresses the full range of people’s needs, such as resolving housing challenges and improving skills.

As the report recognises, the journey to recovery “can take many paths [and] have some false starts”. It’s therefore welcome that the review has carefully considered the effect that problems with housing and contact with the criminal justice system can have on people’s ability to move towards and secure employment.

The report recognises that the benefits system must do more to recognise the needs of people facing drug and alcohol problems. We particularly welcome the recommendations to design an enhanced Jobcentre Plus drug and alcohol offer for benefit claimants, and trial the use of peer mentors with personal experience of recovery in Jobcentres.

As the report also notes, to be effective this must form part of a wider joined up approach to health and work across government. This echoes recommendations MEAM has made previously that Department for Work and Pensions and its partners should “provide appropriate, flexible and personalised support to help people with multiple needs move towards independence.”

Finally, there is a corresponding role for employers in supporting people with drug and alcohol problems, as well as providing employment opportunities. The report makes a number of constructive recommendations on encouraging good practice and addressing negative stigma.

The MEAM partners have carried out extensive work on how to support people experiencing multiple needs into employment, closely informed by the experience of practitioners and people with lived experience, and we were glad to assist the review team in drawing on these perspectives in its research. We also wholly support the response our partner Collective Voice has made on behalf of the substance misuse treatment sector.

We are grateful to Dame Carol Black and her team for their thoughtful contribution on this topic, and for engaging constructively with us throughout the process. We hope the DWP uses the findings of this important review to improve the support provided to people facing the most significant barriers to work.