The government has developed a £3.7 million peer mentor and employment programme for people with substance dependence to seek help from those who have beat addiction

Peer mentors with experiences and histories of drug or alcohol dependency are to guide people on a journey away from addiction and into work in a new trial being tested across England.

As many mentors note returning to work being a vital step in their own recovery from addiction, they aim to draw on their lived experiences of drug or alcohol dependency to support people in the same position.

The peer mentor programme is being trialled in 40 Jobcentres as part of efforts by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to help those with substance issues and to grow the economy.

What have peer mentors said about the programme so far?

A peer mentor called Declan overcome 20 years of substance dependency thanks to getting help and returning to work, said: “I spent around 20 years using continuously, almost every couple of days in the second decade. Having a close friend pass away because of an overdose was the beginning of my journey out of substance dependency.

“Volunteering really helped me in my recovery and set me up for a return to work. In my new role as peer mentor, I’m looking forward to helping people who are going through the same sort of issues I had and starting them on their journey to recovery.”

I”’m looking forward to helping people who are going through the same sort of issues I had and starting them on their journey to recovery”

Gary, another mentor who is drawing from his own experience of opiate dependency in his new role, said: “I was opiate dependent for 15 years and used crack cocaine. After a short spell in prison, due to offending related to my drug use, I linked with a support worker upon release.

“They pointed me towards a place that supported recovery and helped people gain life and employment skills.

“I’m now pleased to be taking up this new peer mentoring role and helping others who share similar experiences to my own. The space and time DWP are providing for people with drug or alcohol dependency is a vital step in the right direction for their recovery and eventual employment.”

Peer mentors will help those who have applied by disclosing their dependency issues without fear of reprisal.

Signposting people to help, mentors will assist them to manage their addiction, and eventually equip them with the necessary skills to access education, training, volunteering, and employment.

nurse mentoring others
Image © FatCamera | iStock

£39 million to support drug and alcohol dependency programmes

The DWP is also to invest over £39 million in expanding its Individual Placement and Support for drug and alcohol dependency programmes.

Set to be delivered to all Local Authority areas in England by 2025, this programme will support individuals in structured drug and alcohol treatment to find and remain in employment.

What areas are to see new peer mentoring services open in Jobcentres?

  • North East: Hull
  • South East: Portsmouth, Cosham, Fareham, Havant, Gosport
  • London & Essex: Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Westminster, Camden, Newham, Islington, Croydon, Lambeth
  • North West: Liverpool City, Knowsley, Wirral, St Helens, Southport, Sefton, Halton

Supporting recovery and helping people gain life and employment skills

Minister for Social Mobility, Youth and Progression, Mims Davies MP, said: “Our new peer mentors are proof that work can be a crucial part of someone’s journey out of substance dependency, transforming their life.

“Their lived experience will help them provide expert one-to-one advice and support from DWP in our Jobcentres, helping people recovering from addiction move into work.

“This new form of support will not only give people in recovery the tailored help they need to get on in life and prosper, but it will also help grow our economy by getting more people back into the workforce.”

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