People with lived experience of drug and alcohol problems complete supported employment programme and go on to work in services

11 October 2022

On Wednesday 28th September, 35 graduates from Scottish Drugs Forum’s award-winning Addiction and Recovery Worker Training (AWTP) Projects celebrated their achievements at a ceremony in Glasgow’s City Chambers.

The event is the first of its kind since Covid restrictions and brought together three groups of trainees who completed this programme between 2020 and 2022, undertaking field placements in local drug and alcohol treatment services throughout the course of the pandemic.

Moving now into its eighteenth year and with a new group of 20 trainees recently started the AWTP supports, trains and prepares people from across Scotland with a history of drug or alcohol problems, to work in the area of social care.

The trainees, recruited from Borders, Dumfries, East Ayrshire, Edinburgh, Fife, Glasgow, Highland, and North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire and West Dunbartonshire were presented with certificates and awards of completion by Angela Constance MSP, Minister for Drug Policy.

She said: “The unique insights offered by those with lived and living experience of substance use are critical to tackling drug deaths and harms. Yet, it is not enough for us just to listen to such voices; those with first-hand experience must be at the core of service design, development and delivery.

“If we are to prevent drug deaths and improve lives then we need skilled and resilient staff delivering services.  Our workforce needs to be comprised of those with a range of insights, delivering fundamental services for those who use drugs. Across front-line NHS and third sector services, to broader health and social care – it is crucial that our services are able to appropriately attract, retain and support staff.

“Optimising opportunity, and improving pathways for those with lived and living experience to enter the workforce, is a key consideration for the Scottish Government and its partners. That is why I am so pleased to have been invited along here today and see so many graduates embarking on such a worthwhile career.”

Nearly all graduates attending the event from the most recent group have already moved into employment because of the project, with their peers continuing to develop and forge their career paths in social care.

The project was set up in 2004 in response to the substantial barriers to employment faced by people with a history of drug and alcohol problems and the difficulties in recruiting and retaining staff within treatment agencies, a trend currently being witnessed again in the substance use field.

As the first project in Scotland to offer people with lived experience the chance to gain supported work experience and a qualification, AWTP offers a dedicated resource of highly trained staff for the sector.

Scottish Drugs Forum CEO David Liddell said: “This work makes a key contribution to the sector and, as we see in the testimonies at these graduation ceremonies, it can be transformative for people who have used services to now be helping shape and deliver those services.

“Placement organisations and employers consistently feedback positively about the contribution made by AWTP graduates and how they and how their contributions are valued as having improved service provision.”

Trainees are employed by Scottish Drugs Forum and complete a programme of specialist training and vocational learning.  All trainees achieved an SVQ Level 2 in Social Services and Healthcare through the SDF Learning Centre while carrying out placements in local agencies.

Guest speakers at the event included William Smith, who graduated from the Addiction Worker Training Project in 2020. William applied because of the inspirational support he had received from an AWTP trainee while accessing services himself.

“I remember a Trainee Addiction Worker encouraging me. Years later I remember going to SDF and thinking who is going to employ me?   I’d been in prison, and it was so daunting, but I was determined, and I wanted to change other people’s lives just like that lassie did for me”.

William carried out a work placement with the Glasgow Drug Crisis Centre during his time on the programme which gave William the practical skills he needed to complete SVQ studies and prepare him for further employment

After completing the programme, William’s efforts were recognised and he was offered a full-time position with Medics Against Violence where he now holds a role as a navigator.


2020 Graduates


2021 Graduates


2022 Graduates


Leave a Reply