Breaking the cycle: How employment support enables drug and alcohol recovery

Photo by Dylan Gillis on Unsplash

WithYou’s Individual Placement and Support (IPS) programme helps people recovering from issues with drugs and alcohol to find employment. John’s story illustrates how the programme can help break the cycle and support recovery.

WithYou’s Individual Placement and Support (IPS) programme offers intensive, individually tailored support to help people recovering from issues with drugs and alcohol to find a job. Employers and employees also receive support together to help ensure that the person keeps and develops in their job.

Access to the right job, with the right support, plays a key role in drug and alcohol recovery. John*, who lives in Cornwall, understands this more than most people. From a young age, John started taking amphetamines, and as he got older, he became addicted to heroin. John has spent much of his life in prison;  since the age of 14, he’s served 15 sentences, including dealing drugs to help fund his drug dependency.

John describes being stuck in a cycle that felt impossible to break: “After finishing one prison sentence, he’d look for work but would be unable to find an employer who’d take on someone with a criminal record. To pay for his drug use, he’d return to dealing, and would then end up back in prison.”

It wasn’t until John found WithYou that the cycle was broken. John was put onto a buprenorphine script and WithYou’s IPS team supported him to find a job. Because of the stability that employment bought John, he’s been able to rebuild a relationship with his family, including with his children.

“The IPS team has helped me break the cycle.
They’ve filled the gap.
They find ways around
the barriers so that people like me can
get a chance in life.” – John

John explains, “I started getting in trouble with the police when I was 14. Since then, I’ve been in and out of prison 15 times. I was also using drugs. It started with amphetamines and then I started taking heroin when I got older.

“I made contact with WithYou and they helped me really quickly. They got me onto a buprenorphine script and put me in touch with their IPS team. Vicki, from the IPS team, talks to potential employers to see if they’d be willing to bring on a new employee through the IPS service. She helped me to get a coat and some work boots so that I could do some casual work while I found something more permanent.

“One day, Vicki called me to tell me about a vacancy for a Lived Experience Support Worker and asked if I was interested in applying. I said I was, and she helped me to fill out an application form and prepare for my interview.

“I’ve been working alongside Cornwall Council for a year now. My role involves using my lived experience to support people with a similar background – I’m really enjoying it. I also recently went with Vicki to HMP Exeter Prison and spoke to some of the prisoners about what the IPS service is and how it can help them after they finish their sentence.

“Life is so much better now. When I was in and out of prison, even though I was trying to get help, I was stuck on benefits because I couldn’t find anyone who would employ me. So I’d go out and deal drugs because it was the only way I could make enough money to survive. But now I have a job, I don’t need to go out and sell drugs – and nor do I want to. I also now have a relationship with my dad, and my son actually lives with me, which is really fantastic.”

Vicki Eslick, Senior IPS Employment Specialist at WithYou in Cornwall, said, “In Cornwall, over the last year, our IPS service has supported 185 clients. Of these, 45 individuals have moved into paid work. We’ve matched these 45 clients with employers who we know will treat them with respect, and in return, they’ve gained a new team member who’s motivated and dedicated, and who brings with them diversity and experiences which enrich their current organisation.

“As John’s story shows, as well as the financial benefits, IPS helps our clients to realise their potential, develop a new sense of purpose and gain a sense of belonging – and all of these things play a massive part in someone’s drug and alcohol recovery journey.

“We would strongly encourage any employer who is interested in being a part of our IPS programme – gaining a hardworking and productive team member, while also giving someone an opportunity to change their life – to get in touch with us.”

Kim Hager, Joint Commissioning Manager and Drugs Partnership Lead at Cornwall Council, said, “IPS is a really important initiative for challenging perceptions and stigma around people with drug and alcohol misuse issues. We also know that for many people like John, IPS plays a really important part in how we can empower people to sustain their recovery journeys. Without employment, it can sometimes be really difficult for people to live the life they hope for. I am particularly proud that Cornwall Council have chosen to be one the Employers for this scheme and lead by example.”

John added, “If I hadn’t met Vicki and the IPS team, I’d still be going round in circles. The IPS team has helped me break the cycle. They’ve filled the gap. They find ways around the barriers so that people like me can get a chance in life. I am so grateful to Vicki and the team, and when I think about it, I can’t put my thanks into words.”

*John’s name has been changed to protect his identity 

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We are proud to work in partnership with many of the leading charities and treatment providers in the sector.

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