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Drug and alcohol use as barriers to employment : a review of the literature

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posted on 19.02.2007, 11:59 by Liz Sutton, Andreas Cebulla, Claire Heaver, Noel Smith
This report contains the findings of a literature review commissioned as part of a larger research project concerned with estimating the number of drug and alcohol users in private households in Britain and with identifying their barriers to work. The literature and programme review found few examples of employment service programmes for substance users and even fewer, which had been evaluated. All support programmes combined employment with treatment services, either through external linkages or internal provision. Successful programmes were found to have established a high level of inter-agency co-ordination, collaboration and communication, thus generating a climate of trust between support service providers as well as between providers and substance users. Employment service providers had in-depth knowledge of drug- or alcohol-related issues (health, behaviour etc.), as well as close links with the local labour market. Support for substance users involved one-to-one case management, continuity of support after placement, relapse prevention and referrals to other support services (e.g. benefits/financial; childcare; transport). Successful support dealt with a range of personal and perceptual problems that substance users articulated, including the risk of a profound distrust between users and support workers. Support work benefited from workers skilled in developing users’ social and communication skills as well as their confidence and assertiveness. Flexibility and diversity of support (e.g. financial advice) and the development of realistic short- and medium-term goals were critical to successful intervention. Organisational and spatially integrated provision of treatment and employment services appeared to increase the effectiveness of interventions providing they improved mutual understanding and the referral of substance users between task groups. Such integration enabled greater continuity of one-to-one support and thus improved the rapport between clients and service providers.


Department of Work and Pensions



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies

Research Unit

  • Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP)


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SUTTON, L. ... et al, 2004. Drug and alcohol use as barriers to employment : a review of the literature. CRSP; 499s. Loughborough : Loughborough University.


© Loughborough University, for Department of Work and Pensions

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