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Drug and alcohol worker

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Drug and alcohol workers help people tackle their drug, alcohol or solvent misuse problems.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £17,000 to £40,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 35 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

There are no set entry requirements.

Paid or unpaid experience of nursing, criminal justice, social care, youth work would be helpful.

If you’ve personal experience of addiction or dependency you could apply for this type of work.

You’ll need clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

Do It has more information on voluntary opportunities in your area.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • empathy and a calm, caring approach
  • an understanding of substance misuse issues and their impact on people
  • a non-judgemental attitude
  • the ability to build trusting relationships
  • excellent communication and listening skills
  • the ability to work closely with a range of different organisations

3. What you'll do

You’ll help clients to access services such as counselling, healthcare and education. Your job could vary widely depending on your interests and qualifications.

Your day-to-day duties might include:

  • outreach work - visiting substance users and helping with immediate needs
  • drop-in centre work - talking to clients about their needs and finding ways of supporting them towards recovery
  • counselling and rehabilitation - giving support and dealing with the causes of substance misuse
  • arrest referral work - supporting clients arrested for drug-related offences
  • education and training - helping clients access services
  • healthcare - working as a specialist nurse in an addiction clinic
  • needle exchange - providing clean sharps and giving advice on how to use substances safely 

4. Salary

Starter: £17,000 to £19,000

Experienced: £21,000 to £25,000

Highly Experienced: £26,000 to £40,000

Some contracts may be short-term and pay an hourly rate ranging from £14 to £17.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Hours may be irregular and unsocial, and you may need to be on call. Part-time paid and voluntary work is widely available.

Your workplace will depend on your job. In the justice system, you’ll be based in a prison or remand centre.

In outreach work, you’ll travel around your district, visiting centres and schools.

You could also be based at a health centre, residential rehabilitation unit or housing association office.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could become a volunteer coordinator, project team leader or service manager.

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Last updated: 13 September 2018