Fourteen trainees, including Paisley’s Diana Higgins, have graduated from a unique programme that trains people with a history of problem drug or alcohol use to work in social care.

The graduates from the Scottish Drugs Forum’s Addiction Worker Training Project (AWTP) celebrated their achievements at a completion ceremony in Glasgow City Chambers.

Renfrewshire Council and Renfrewshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership, along with the Big Lottery, are among the project’s funders.

This year’s trainees from the west of Scotland – 10 from Glasgow and two from Renfrewshire – were presented with certificates by the Leader of Glasgow City Council, Councillor Gordon Matheson. Ten of the graduates, including Diana, have already moved into employment as a result of the project.

The project was set up in 2004 in response to the substantial barriers to employment faced by people with a history of substance misuse and the difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff within drug agencies. Some of the funding for the project comes from Renfrewshire.  It was the first project in Scotland to offer former substance users the chance to gain supported work experience and a qualification, with the first tranche of trainees graduating in 2005.

Renfrewshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership Co-ordinator, Donna Reid., said: “Renfrewshire ADP, in partnership with Renfrewshire Council, committed funding to this unique training programme, which gave individuals an opportunity to access practical work experience and specialist training achieving positive outcomes.  Both trainees grew with confidence within their placements and gained a range of skills and experience resulting in one trainee securing paid employment.  Positive comments were received from both trainees and felt the support received from both the service and SDF was invaluable.”

Diana now works with Turning Point Scotland Housing Support Service in Paisley. She said: “Being fortunate enough to get a place on the project totally changed my life. It made me believe in myself and my abilities and gave me confidence in myself and my future. ”

Trainees are employed by the Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF), and complete an SVQ Level II in Social Services and Healthcare while carrying out placements in local agencies. They receive a weekly wage from SDF and an intensive package of personalised support.

Since 2004, out of the 149 people who started on the course, 135 completed it and 117 went into work – the majority to full time jobs in the social care field.