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An Independent Review into the impact on employment outcomes of drug or alcohol addiction, and obesity

At the heart of this Review is a concern to ameliorate the human, social and economic cost of drug or alcohol addiction or obesity, by addressing the challenges in finding work facing people who are affected. The aim is not to offer utopian solutions to deeply complex problems, but rather to offer, as far as possible, an evidence-based analysis of the factors that stand in the way of employment. We recommend practical interventions, including changes in services, practices, behaviour and attitudes. Whilst drug and alcohol addiction have common features, obesity is different and is treated separately.

The review recognises too that the factors at play in these specific groups of people are present in many others who are afflicted with recurring or persistent long term disorders. The principles of treatment and support in relation to working life, set out in this and my preceding reviews, are the same for all.

With drugs and alcohol, our research has highlighted three main areas where action is needed:

• Addiction treatment does not, in itself, ensure employment, though it brings other social gains. Work has not hitherto been an integral part of treatment, and it needs to be if progress is to be made.
• The benefits system, which has a central role in helping people enter or return to work, requires significant change. The system is hampered by a severe lack of information on health conditions, poor incentives for staff to tackle difficult or long-term cases, and a patchy offer of support for those who are reached.
• Employers are the gatekeepers to employment and, without their co-operation employment for our cohorts is impossible. Employers are understandably reluctant to hire people with addiction and/or criminal records. They have told us that they need Government, quite simply, to de-risk these recruitment decisions for them.

Our recommendations address these challenges and will, I believe, if properly implemented and evaluated, offer new productive pathways for these currently lost cohorts.

Our research into obesity has shown that its consequences for the labour market are more indirect, and evidence of its impact on employment and the benefits system is sparse. Most working-age people who are obese are in work, though severe obesity is associated with much lower employment rates. Obesity can lead to a host of other long-term health conditions, which bring their own risks for claim to disability benefits and early retirement, and obesity can deter employers at the recruitment stage.

Unfortunately, although we believe that obesity is widespread among benefits claimants, existing data has not allowed us to identify or enumerate them, nor can we establish the extent to which obesity caused their unemployment. To answer this question, as we indicate in the Review, will require further research and new information about how people with chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, related to obesity, can best be supported to find and keep work.

I hope that this report provides further insights into the problems faced by the specific groups I was asked to consider and offers practical solutions for them, consistent with the Government’s direction
of travel.