How the DWP Peer Mentoring Programme Helps People Back into Work

  • Monday, August 7, 2023
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  • The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) peer mentoring programme helps individuals with substance dependency to recover and find work.
  • The Growth Company (GC) delivers the programme across the Liverpool City Region through nine peer mentors – such as Samantha – who have experience of addiction.  
  • GC has enrolled 64 individuals on the programme to date, with 28 already referred for treatment, and three successfully placed in employment, including Joe.

Alongside treatment, employment is proven to make a positive contribution to a person’s recovery from substance dependency. However, job seekers with a dependency can often feel unable to disclose their situation due to denial or shame. Others may not engage with the DWP at all.

Peer mentoring is one way to address this reluctance and its consequences. Put simply, it involves a peer mentor using their lived – and shared – experience to support others. Given their familiarity with substance dependency, peer mentors have a unique, intuitive understanding of people’s needs – a particularly effective quality when it comes to helping affected individuals engage with treatment and employment opportunities.   

DWP Peer Mentoring Programme

Launched earlier this year as a ‘Test and Learn’ initiative, the DWP peer mentoring programme is part of the UK government’s 10-year drugs strategy. Its aim is to help people with substance dependency issues recover and move closer to employment.  

GC is responsible for delivering the programme across the Liverpool City Region through nine peer mentors who have experience of addiction. Since April, we have enrolled 64 individuals on the scheme, with many registered for skills courses and volunteering projects, 28 already referred for treatment, and three successfully placed in employment. Incredibly, we have recorded a 90 percent appointment attendance rate after the first session.  

Case study: Samantha and Joe

While these facts and figures are impressive, the human stories behind them are equally as informative – if not more – highlighting just how important the scheme is to both individuals and communities in the region.

Take the case of Samantha and Joe – a mentor and mentee brought together by the programme.

Samantha was considering volunteering as an outreach worker until she came across an advertisement for a peer mentor role at GC. Despite having little direct work experience in mentoring, Samantha had battled and recovered from a 25-year opiate addiction. Recognising a chance to share her accumulated wisdom with others, Samantha successfully applied for the job and joined GC in May 2023.

Joe was one of her first mentees, having been referred to the programme by Everton Jobcentre Plus in the same month. Joe had been the victim of a robbery and had gone on to develop an anxiety disorder, with which he found it difficult to cope. In an attempt to self-medicate, he had begun using up to £100 worth of cocaine every day, as well as drinking to excess. By the time he was referred to GC, Joe had a negative outlook on life and was not receiving any treatment for his drug and alcohol dependency. He had also been unemployed for several years and did not feel ready to return to work.

From the outset, Joe attended numerous one-to-one appointments with Samantha, who helped him with a Universal Credit claim, drawing on her lived experience to support and encourage Joe.

At one meeting, Samantha asked Joe about his career and skills goals, learning that he would be open to starting a digger course. Samantha researched the available options and found one run by Northwest Training that started the following week. Acting quickly, she secured funding via the DWP and booked Joe onto the course.

Joe promptly passed with flying colours, boosting his self-confidence and motivating him to contact a previous employer, who proved receptive to his proposal. He began work in early July as a full-time driver – a role which he greatly enjoys. Joe will continue to be mentored by Samantha while he adjusts to working life.

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