7th September issue

A bar too far?

Employers could think twice about hiring ex-users

Welcome to our first issue after the summer break – it’s good to be back! As always there’s plenty to occupy us, and this issue we’ve been looking at the vetting and barring scheme that begins its introductory stages next month.

Of course the scheme has a laudable motive – to safeguard vulnerable people, which could include many drug and alcohol users in treatment. But there’s lack of clarity at the moment that could plunge the scheme’s administration into confusion. It could also, ironically, endanger the prospects of vulnerable ex-service users who could potentially be subjected to lengthy, career destroying investigations that could end up with them being barred for up to ten years before they would be eligible to reapply to work in the field.

At the very least we should scrutinise anything that might give employers an excuse to think twice about employing ex-service users in the first place, and the Independent Safeguarding Authorities reassurances do not stand robustly enough against the concerns expressed in this article by people highly experienced in workforce development. If alarm bells are ringing, they have to be listened to before the scheme can bed in with any confidence – ‘discovering the real complexities of it as it goes along’ will serve only to undo much of the good work that’s taken place over the last few years to pave ex-service users’ path to the workforce.

The ‘recovery’ word crops up again this issue – this time at the National Treatment Agency’s headquarters, where Paul Hayes explained why the NTA is refocusing on recovery and reintegration, rather than just getting more people into treatment and reducing waiting times. While the move to work more closely with local services widens prospects for housing, employment and integration to society, it also means that much depends on the quality and motivation of local partnerships. As always, we depend on you to feed back whether these are working.

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