Drink and Drugs News DDN October 2019 | Page 6

Stigma A new campaign is tackling stigma head on, says Asi Panditharatna ‘We believe everyone has the ability to turn their life around, if given the chance.’ More than my More Than My Past is a national campaign, launched by The Forward Trust, to challenge the stigma that prevents people with difficult pasts reaching their full potential. It shows that ex-offenders and people in recovery from addiction not only want to change and succeed – they can and do. The campaign website and social media share stories of people from all walks of life who have successfully confronted their problems and moved on to prosper in their personal and professional lives. Through sharing personal accounts of overcoming addiction and offending, they are calling on the government, employers and general public to share a belief in people’s capacity for recovery and rehabilitation. They want us to celebrate their stories of achievement over adversity while taking action to support this agenda. Forward are also supported in the campaign by a number of employers who believe in giving people another chance as a potential new pool of talent in these challenging times. A HIDDEN WORKFORCE The campaign aims to demonstrate to employers that individuals who have successfully recovered from addiction or who are rehabilitated ex-offenders are a worthy investment, if given the opportunity to prove themselves. Among the key facts it has highlighted: • Ex-offenders and people in recovery are the two groups that organisations are least likely to employ; one in four people in recovery have been turned down for jobs three times or more when disclosing their past (Bridging the gaps, The Forward Trust, 2017). • Seventy-five per cent of prisoners have no job on release even though having a job is the single biggest factor in reducing re-offending; 15 per cent of prisoners have never worked legally, and 47 per cent of prisoners have no qualifications. • Those in recovery from addiction who are employed are 22 per cent more likely to be abstinent than those who are not, and having a job more than doubles the length of abstinence. 6 | drinkanddrugsnews | October 2019 Meanwhile, with Brexit looming, evidence shows that employers may need to seek out new pools of talent to be able to meet their requirements. According to the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), 70 per cent of employers with vacancies said that at least some of those were proving hard to fill in autumn 2018, compared to 51 per cent in spring 2017. Some employers are already embracing the opportunity to work with this group of people, and know how rewarding it can be for both the business and the individuals. Catering company and food retailer Cook, leading retail service provider Timpson and transport social enterprise HCT Group are among those backing this new campaign. ‘HCT Group believes that someone’s history shouldn’t define them,’ said Dai Powell, HCT Group’s chief executive. ‘We’re proud to support the More Than My Past campaign as we believe in the potential of people whose past may not have been perfect. So many individuals still face too many barriers to employment due to a criminal past. But if they are given a chance they can – and do – turn their lives around to become valuable members of society.’ Asi Panditharatna is divisional director of employment services ‘Some employers are already embracing the opportunity to work with this group of people and know how rewarding it can be...’ See the transformational change that ex-offenders and people in recovery can achieve at www.morethanmypast.org.uk and by joining the conversation on social media: MTMPStories @morethanmypast morethanmypast_stories www.drinkanddrugsnews.com