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David Burrowes MP: We need a social recovery not just an economic recovery

Burrowes David NewDavid Burrowes is Conservative MP for Enfield Southgate and Drugs and Alcohol Policy Adviser to Rt Hon Oliver Letwin MP.  Follow David on Twitter.

Recovery, recovery, recovery. It’s the talk of Westminster this week but not just about the economy. The inaugural Recovery Festival is in town. It has brought together Government, businesses, social enterprises, treatment services, recovery champions the length and breadth of the UK.. and Russell Brand! It is not just talk of recovery but action with lives transformed from addiction to drugs and alcohol. Amidst a media narrative of gloom and despair these are real stories of hope and opportunity. Stories demonstrating that the Government is on the side of individuals being given a second chance, getting into work and making their lives and those around them better.

This Government is more ambitious than any before it for lives to be free from the slavery of alcohol and drugs addictions and getting into work. Our payment by results pilots are the first in the world to pay local areas by the results of getting people free from dependence on drugs and alcohol and back integrated into society, and particularly work. Drugs and alcohol are not merely a policing  issue, or a health issue, or an education issue. They are a far-reaching, social recovery issue. Ask those in recovery and they will tell you that addiction damages not just individuals, but families, businesses and communities. That is why this Government's social recovery agenda is good news for us all.

Progress is being made under this Government but there is a glass ceiling. Put simply, it is stigma. It is the stigma that prevents people from being honest enough to tackle their own drug and alcohol addiction. It is the stigma that pushes recovery off the agenda at a local and national level. And, importantly for this Recovery Festival, it is the stigma which keeps those in recovery out of employment, cut off from society, and so cut off from the very things they need for recovery.

This is why employment initiatives, such as BAC and O'Connor's Langan's Tea Rooms or Weston-super-Mare's Lighthouse Cafe, and educational schemes, like the Amy Winehouse Foundation’s Resilience Campaign, are so important. Getting those in recovery back into work is as challenging as it is important, and so the Government and the Recovery Partnership are endeavouring to make employers take another look at employing those in recovery – as good for business and good for society. As Dr David Bryon, former MD of bmibaby, said, ‘people in recovery...have learnt a tremendous amount by undertaking their own recovery journey, and in doing so have acquired a skill set that any business would benefit from harnessing.’

Take ‘The Brink,’ in Liverpool. ‘The Brink’ is a non-alcoholic bar in Liverpool. Set up in November 2011 to provide the recovery community with a recovery hub and social venue which wasn’t closed off and sterile, but at the heart of the community; a venue where people could go whether or not they have a drug or alcohol problem. Most of its employees are in recovery and some are in work for the first time in years.

‘The Brink’ isn’t a charity. It’s a hard-nosed, successful business. It’s a thriving award-winning, entrepreneurial initiative. It recognises that those in recovery are not charity cases but highly motivated workers, desperate to get back into the normality of the workplace, and work themselves back into the life that addiction has stolen from them. They need to get a fair hearing in front of an employer and yesterday the first online resource for employment and recovery was launched -

Its not all talk this week about recovery but a practical and financial commitment to help employers take on those in recovery. Not just because it’s good for them but because it’s good for society - and it’s good for business too.


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