Slow progress from drugs to work

1st September 2000 at 01:00
AN estimated 10,000 people complete drug rehabilitation programmes each year but few end up in a job.

Six projects around the country are being used as government-funded test-beds to find effective ways of tackling social exclusion among former drug-users.

The Progress Projects are sharing a pound;600,000 pool of cash from the Department for Education and Employment and the proceeds of assets which have been seized in police anti-drug operations.

They are supported by the United Kingdom Anti-Drugs Co-ordination Unit, which is headed by the "drugs tsar" Keith Hellawell, and the Government's Employment Service.

The projects were set up following concerns expressed by Mr Hellawell's deputy, Mike Trace, that people who had given up drugs were relapsing because they can't find work.

Six schemes are being funded in England and Scotland so the Government can decide which approach is most effective.

Mike Stewart, from the Centre for Social Exclusion, a non-profit-making company which is co-ordinating the projects, said employment or a course could make all the difference.

"Having a job dramatically increases a person's chances of staying off drugs," he said.

"Progress offers these ex-drug- users a real opportunity to build up the skills and self-confidence to get a job and keep it."

In other schemes:

Quantum Leap, in Lverpool, places people in on-the-job training and uses its contacts in the city to help them find permanent employment.

Positive Opportunities for Women, in north London, helps find employment for black women, including those preparing for release from Prison.

Full Potential, in Devon, is aimed at all adult recovering addicts, helping them to find employment but also providing continuing support after they start work.

Progress, in Hertfordshire, is looking at ways of getting rehabilitated drug-users into Employment Service programmes, with a co-ordinator based at Stevenage Job Centre.

Surf Shack, in Kingston-upon-Thames, gets former and current drug-users involved in commercial website design and encourages them to learn through the University for Industry. It also includes a medical team to help clients deal with relapses and is run by Kaleidoscope, a drug-misuse centre.

Into Work, in Glasgow, employs people recruited from drug rehabilitation programmes and gives them temporary work or places on New Deal voluntary sector programmes.

Rowena Young, who runs the Kingston-upon-Thames Surf Shack project, said: "Many of these people have considerable strengths which would benefit employers, but they need help to gain the self-confidence required to take the step from drug dependence to being a self-sufficient employee."

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