Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith has proposed a plan to get welfare claimants with drug or alcohol problems back into employment. He said that people in recovery for alcohol and drug abuse can make the best workers.
To get these people back in the workforce, Smith has backed two pilot schemes under the Government’s work program. These schemes will each provide cash bonuses for private contractors who hire former addicts and provide them with lasting employment.
Smith will be defending his plan during a conference of addiction experts and charities in London. His goal is to end the misconception that employing people who have been through rehab is risky or simply not worth considering. On the contrary, Smith is planning to argue that evidence shows many recovering addicts make loyal and highly motivated employees.
A statement from the Department of Work and Pensions states that former addicts are “all the more grateful for the opportunity to work because it offers them an opportunity to stay on the right track, whilst bringing tenacity, drive and dedication to the job.”
According to recent estimates by the Department of Work and Pensions 400,000 problem drug users on heroin and crack cocaine in Great Britain and around 80% of them, (320,000) are o benefits. If this number could be lowered by putting more people in gainful employment, it would help stimulate the economy and significantly lower government costs.
For each former addict that was on benefits hired by private contractors, the contractors will get a cash payment.
This has the potential to help both addicts and the government. While the government will save money and help the economy, the new scheme could help end discrimination against former addicts. By removing this barrier to employment and incentivising companies to hire former addicts, the plan could provide new hope to addicts who saw their situation as hopeless.
Currently there are pilot schemes similar to Smiths being set up in West Yorkshire and the east of England. These schemes connect rehabilitation and treatment centres with work program providers.
It remains to be seen whether this new program will work but if successful, it could start a wave of similar programs targeting other addictions and mental health disorders.