Drug-use stigma presents employment challenge for government

The stigma attached to recovering drug users threatens to jeopardise government plans to get them into employment, a report has warned.
 
A report by the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC) said that efforts to find employment for drug users through new welfare reform proposals may not work unless more radical steps are taken to support employers.
 
It is estimated that there are about 400,000 heroin and crack users in the UK, and that about 80% of them are not in employment. However, two-thirds of employers surveyed would refuse to employ a former addict, even if they were otherwise suitable for the job.
 
The report found that employers need practical support – and even financial incentives – to help bridge the gap between recovering drug users and the labour market.
 
John Varley, UKDPC president and group chief executive of Barclays, said: “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.”
 
A government report suggested up to 240,000 problem drug users in England may be receiving out-of-work benefits – representing about 7% of Jobseekers Allowance and Incapacity Benefit recipients.

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