UKDPC has recently completed a review looking at how to get recovering problem drug users into jobs. As part of this we commissioned research examining (i) social security and relevant aspects of employment law and policy and (ii) barriers to employment for this group.
At the heart of our concerns is the conclusion that, unlike mental health and physical disabilities, society at large and legislation does not yet consider substance addiction sufficient grounds to warrant its inclusion in the various “protective” and enabling legislation to address unequal treatment and discrimination. The scale and nature of substance addiction suggests a review of this exclusion is overdue.
A concern is that if this group is not explicitly recognised by the legislation, it may reinforce and even heighten the inequalities they already face. Drug misusers (especially those dependent on heroin and/or crack cocaine) are a group which are more likely to suffer from a range of health and social inequalities including social deprivation, poor physical and mental health, poor housing and education and employment opportunities.
This memorandum invites the Work and Pensions Committee to consider:
- Whether the definition of disability as understood through the disability discrimination legislation should be clarified so as to explicitly include substance misuse addiction.
- The issue of fairness and equality for those who experience unequal treatment and discrimination on the grounds of their substance misuse addiction or dependence and how this is acknowledged in the proposed Equalities legislation and statutory guidance