In the right place

Individual Placement and Support (IPS) can have a hugely positive impact for people with experience of addiction, says Rebecca Odedra.

compass signPaid employment plays such a huge part in so many people’s lives. It provides a reason to get out of bed in the morning; it can boost confidence, motivation, empowerment, financial independence, increased social networks, and so much more.

For a lot of people, work can take up more than 60 per cent of their waking hours, so it’s no wonder that – as a survey quoted in Dame Carol Black’s 2016 independent review into the impact on employment outcomes of drug or alcohol addiction, and obesity said – ‘getting a job (and keeping a job) is a top objective for people in treatment, only second to “getting clean”’. Our experience at WDP also tells us that employment is vital to people’s recovery with improved drug and alcohol treatment outcomes – including reductions in the frequency and severity of relapses.

In 2019, we were awarded an Individual Placement and Support (IPS) contract through West London Alliance to work across eight West London boroughs. IPS Into Work is an intensive and personalised service provided by expert employment specialists who understand the ebbs and flows of recovery. Focussing on client readiness to enter work, a rapid job search, and working with employers, our award-winning team is dynamic and innovative but perhaps most importantly, believes that anyone that wants to work can work.

As featured in our recent impact report, we’re proud to have supported over 250 employment outcomes, provided more than 4,000 hours of support, and that 100 per cent of participants recommend the programme.

The impact of work is hugely significant and truly transformative, and so many of our clients’ stories have stuck with me. I recall one individual we helped who had not worked in over 40 years. Getting that job was life changing – enabling them to have an improved relationship with their child and creating structure and financial independence.

Another testament to our success is having recently received additional funding from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), supported by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), to extend our existing contract and expand into a ninth London borough, Hammersmith and Fulham.

Rebecca Odedra, head of reintegration at WDP
Rebecca accepts the Transforming Lives Achievement Award at the 2021 MJ Awards. The awards celebrate the delivery of services and showcase their role in communities across the UK.

With the recent drug strategy announcement committing to roll out IPS in every local authority by 2025, the future looks very promising in the world of IPS and for those individuals it can help. But don’t take my word for it, hear from two people who have experienced the power of IPS.

The IPS model impressed the judges who said it was not only changing perceptions of drug and alcohol problems but also empowering people through a cross-partnering approach. See more here.

Rebecca Odedra is head of reintegration at WDP



In the right place – Brian’s story

I had been in custody serving a mandatory life sentence and was released on parole [after 17 years].

pair of compassesMy work background before I went to prison was mainly machine driving, but also building and construction, warehouse jobs and driving jobs. I’ve had spells off from time to time due to factors going on in my life, whether it be drink, drugs, family issues, poor emotional management, or not being able to cope properly. But I’ve always worked, and I’ve always managed to get myself a job and have a bit of stability.

When I first got released, I found [job searching] a bit difficult because they wanted CVs and disclosure letters, which I had but at that time I needed to get them updated and readdress how to put it together in a professional manner.

Before I went to prison, I would just phone up an employer, get an ad out of the newspaper, or pop into the Jobcentre to look at their list. And that was gone, and everything was just email. And because of COVID, you couldn’t have in-person conversations with people.

[Having moved to a new area] I ended up working with WDP initially through drugs and alcohol prevention, but they said they could help me with finding employment as well.

In my first meeting with my employment specialist, we managed to get an understanding of one another, and I got the help I was looking for. They talked about a couple of possible jobs they found, and we sent my CV off. And lo and behold, I got the email from one of the companies saying they’d like to invite me to a day down at the company. It sort of took off from there and I ended up getting the job.

The job that I got was a collection driver for a waste recycling company and I’m loving it. I like driving and being out on the road because it’s helping me to get to know my way around again and meeting new people and dealing with customers, and I enjoy that type of work. My main focus now is to settle into the job that I’m in and I’m also hoping to do HGV training to just keep bettering myself as I go along.

I’d rather tell the people that I’m working for about my history because that then gives them a better understanding of me, my life, what’s happened in the past, and that I’m just trying to rebuild my life. It gives us more trust. That’s why I’d rather be open and honest at the beginning to give them that option to say, ‘Sorry we can’t employ you’ or ‘We’re willing to give you a second chance’. We all make mistakes, and a lot of people understand. And I’m grateful for that.


Tailored support – Leo’s story

I didn’t pick up my first drink until the age of 20 but from that point, I drank very heavily. In the mid-1990s, cocaine became part of my story as well and the consequences started to kick in.

compassBy 2000, I was completely out of control, barely hanging on to my job, and I went to the first of six treatment centres. When I left, I should have gone to a ‘dry house’, but I chose not to – I wanted to return to work. I returned to work five weeks after leaving and relapsed within a week. By 2001, my employer said, ‘We need to part company with you’.

In 2002, I sold a property for quite a sum of money. But if you’ve got a cocaine habit of at least one or two grams a day and you’re drinking, buying holidays, sports cars, that type of thing – by 2008, the money had gone. From then until a year and half ago, I started to claim benefits and was doing odd jobs, manual jobs, gardening.

I was very fortunate as I ended up engaged with a treatment service (now WDP) and a housing officer found me a secure roof over my head. But up until a year and a half ago, I had become a hermit. I didn’t engage with life, with people, and I wasn’t in a good place. I was so lonely, worried, and fearful, and I didn’t know what was going to happen.

But things changed infinitely for the better 18 months ago. I had tried to commit suicide but was lucky – I woke up, I escaped, I got away with it. I then reconnected with WDP and was also referred to the IPS service.

My employment specialist carried out a detailed assessment and really got to know me. He wanted to know my journey and understand what my needs were. He then put together a tailored support package. He was very helpful with my CV as there were some significant gaps which we jointly addressed. He would send through jobs every week based on what I wanted, which was a customer service position.

One job was with a US corporate hospitality and food company, and I had to answer some questions by video. They said they were very happy with my interview and offered me a job. I am now working there and about to start another job as an events steward. My focus for this year is working for these two companies and then I’ll start to think about what’s next.

IPS has been an extraordinarily supportive tool to me returning to normality. It builds your self-esteem, your self-worth, and it provides structure and socialisation once you are back in work. I am very grateful and couldn’t commend them more highly.

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