A brighter 2023 ahead for scores of people recovering from issues with drugs and alcohol as they carve out new careers with iconic Cornish businesses

8 February 2023

The New Year can be a time of reflection and resolutions for all. For nearly 100 people from across Cornwall it is also a time of very hard won new beginnings.

In less than a year, since WithYou’s Employment Support Team has been working in Cornwall, life has taken a new and positive path for scores of Cornish residents who have previously had issues with drugs and alcohol but have gone on to find new jobs and careers. For some it may be the first time ever that they have felt independent and sought out a career path. For others it is a proud moment as they return to employment and pick up the life they had before.

This new beginning is due, in part, to drugs, alcohol and mental health charity, WithYou, and its Individual Placement Support team (IPS) based in Cornwall. Supported by some amazing employers and businesses from across the county including Cornwall Council, and Carers Break, the team has supported nearly 100 people on their journey to employment during 2022.

WithYou provides free and confidential support to people experiencing issues with drugs, alcohol or mental health. It works with people on their own goals, whether that’s staying safe and healthy, making small changes or stopping an unwanted habit altogether. The team use their expertise to improve the help available and raise awareness around drugs, alcohol and mental health so that more people in Cornwall and beyond can get support.

Drug and alcohol support is often thought of as rehabilitation, counselling, therapy and CBT but a large part of the jigsaw is rehabilitation in many forms – one is employment support. WithYou introduced IPS in Cornwall in April 2022 to help people who wanted to get back into employment.

People like *Sam, who became reliant on high strength, over the counter painkillers in lockdown after a simple dental issue was exacerbated due to not getting treatment for nine months. Sam’s mum referred them to WithYou and with their unfaltering support Sam steadily got back on track. Sam is now working as a cook in a center that supports the community.

“I know no one in the area, so everyone at work is someone new to me but the only way I can get things done is to throw myself in at the deep end. I do the catering for functions and even bake. I actually get to make full on paella!  Vicki, my employment  specialist, is still supporting me and we chat about any challenges I might have at work or in life. She is always the first person I reach out to.”

Sam continued: “The woman that I work with sends my Mum messages to say how well I am doing and my Mum feels proud of me and it’s now making her want to get a job again. She is so happy with me.”

With support from local organisations, the WithYou team has successfully placed 30 people in employment already, with many more at different stages of the programme.

As WithYou’s IPS Employment Specialist, Vicki Eslick explains: “When our service users have gained control over their issues with drugs or alcohol there can be a stigma or perhaps a patchy employment record can make it hard for them to approach potential employers. But we work with them to do this. We empower our service users to follow their passions, give them confidence, and bring out their skills. We can only support people to achieve what they have thanks to the amazing businesses who have signed up. But we would also now love to hear from more.”

Organisations like Cornwall Council, who came on board immediately: Mary Greener, Complex Needs Strategy Manager, said: “The IPS programme from WithYou immediately appealed to Cornwall Council. As one of the largest employers in the county it is vital we not only recognise talent but also lead the way in providing routes back into work for all. Mark is a valued and valuable member of the team and his lived experiences make him the ideal person to carry out his job. Our team is all the better for having *Mark in it.”

*Mark, who is a Lived Experience Support Worker at Cornwall Council found his new part-time job with the help of WithYou’s IPS scheme. *Mark has struggled with a long-term reliance on painkillers, which exacerbated issues with his relationship and contributed to him being homeless for a while. Through support from WithYou, he got his life back on track and a full time job, but retired in 2021 after struggling after Covid. Mark missed work, feeling valued and his WithYou support worker referred him to IPS.

“I remember meeting Vicki, With You’s Employment Specialist, in a park. She has been brilliant, really supportive. She has made me feel that something is actually happening, that I am not just sitting here being dormant. She has helped me to update my CV and look at other options that I wouldn’t normally consider, simply because I didn’t think I would be any good at them. I feel that she has had more faith in me than I have, she has definitely placed more value on me than I ever have done. It’s like she has helped to fill the gap that was in me.”

The IPS programme in Cornwall aims to support over 200 people in 2023 with at least 30% of service users moving into suitable employment opportunities. However, the key to achieving this target is engaging employers from all industries in the county. Businesses can find out more by visiting https://www.wearewithyou.org.uk/

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