Islington jobs scheme is saluting its success stories

As the government’s flagship welfare-to-work programme comes under fire for getting just a tiny fraction of applicants into jobs at an estimated cost of �14,000 per position, an Islington charity working with some of the most disadvantaged in society is quietly making a mockery of those figures.

The Next Project, which trains former drug and alcohol abusers or those affected by addiction and gives them self-confidence and the skills to help them find work, says it has a 50 per cent success rate four years after graduation at a cost of just �2,400 per job – compared with just 2.3 per cent on welfare-to-work.

Many of those who graduate have been addicted to hard drugs like crack or heroin for years, some were living rough on the streets and many have never finished school.

This 12-week scheme, which gives people something to focus on at one of the most temptation-ridden stages of giving up substances, consistently produces results that any project would be proud of.

It’s not just the number of those going on to further education or full-time employment that impresses – anecdotal evidence from graduates suggest that for many, this is a pivotal point in their lives.

Barry, a 42-year-old former crack and heroin addict from Upper Holloway, was homeless for more than two years.

After finishing his last stretch in prison, Barry decided enough was enough and entered a rehabilitation programme. As part of his recovery, he entered the Next Project and graduated at a ceremony at the House of Lords last Thursday.

Most Read

Now he has finished a six- month volunteer placement and is looking forward to starting either a diploma or apprenticeship.

He said: “The next programme has been so inspirational – it has helped me so much that I want to work in a job where I can help others.

“On the course I met other people in the same situation who pushed me and also accepted me for who I am, which is very important.

“The people who have finished this course, they all have smiles on their faces. I know a lot of people out there are still doing what I was doing and they’re not smiling.

“Who’d have thought a boy from Islington would be in the House of Lords?”

The programme is also open to carers and people whose lives have been pulled apart by their relationships with addicts.

Sasha Donaldson, 34, from Essex Road, Islington, also graduated on Thursday and has secured a full-time job in drug intervention.

She said: “I’m from a family of addiction – my dad and brother were into alcohol and drugs, and I lost a brother to addiction.

“Then I had a partner who was a heroin addict and one day everything just fell apart. The stress made me so ill and I ended up in hospital.

“It was so good to be on a programme with other people like me who had been affected by addicts. My life is 100 per cent better now.”

There were many more stories of triumph against adversity at the event last week, with a common theme of mutual support and respect between staff and trainees.

Bob Bharij, manager of the programme, praised Islington Council, which led the way in funding the scheme.

Despite the millions bequeathed to businesses on the welfare-to-work scheme, the Next programme gets better results on just �500,000 a year.

Janet Burgess, Islington Council’s executive member for health and wellbeing said: “The next project has helped many problem drinkers and substance abusers in Islington to break the cycle of addiction and get on with their lives.”