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Substance misuse outreach worker

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Substance misuse outreach workers encourage people to get help from local support services, and advise them on minimising risks to health.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £20,000 to £35,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 35 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

There are no set requirements but you’ll need a good understanding of the issues facing people with substance misuse problems. Volunteering for an organisation like a drug, alcohol or housing charity is a good way to gain experience. You can search for them on Frank.

You’ll need English and maths GCSEs or equivalent for some jobs. Others may only be open to qualified nurses, counsellors or youth workers.

If you’ve personal experience of addiction or dependency you could also apply, as applications are usually welcome from people who have successfully come through treatment.

You could take a college course to gain an understanding of some of the issues.

You’ll also need to pass an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

You could get into this job through an apprenticeship.

The Federation of Drug & Alcohol Professionals (FDAP), DrugWise and Alcohol Concern have more information about working in this field.

2. Skills required

You’ll need to be able to:

  • manage behaviour and set limits while keeping trust
  • communicate with people from many different backgrounds
  • work closely with a range of organisations
  • respect private information while keeping people safe

3. What you'll do

Your day-to-day duties with clients may include:

  • gaining their trust so they agree to let you help them
  • finding out about their situation and needs
  • giving face-to-face advice about health protection
  • talking about their options for support
  • finding and agreeing the best services to help them
  • helping them to get access to services like housing or benefits advice
  • going to appointments with them and giving help with forms
  • working with their families to give wider practical and emotional support
  • writing reports and recording information so that other professionals can help

Other duties may include:

  • building relationships with community organisations like tenants' groups
  • giving talks to increase understanding and gain support
  • going with police patrols around pubs and clubs
  • helping with needle exchange services
  • running workshops in schools and youth centres

4. Salary

Starter: £20,000 to £22,000

Experienced: £23,000 to £33,000

Highly Experienced: £35,000 or more (manager)

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

Your hours may be irregular and unsocial, and you may be on-call. In a full-time post you’ll work between 35 and 40 hours a week. Part-time paid and voluntary work is widely available.

You may be based in one place, like at a charity's drop-in centre, but you'll also travel around the community to work with clients and give talks.

A driving licence and car would be useful, especially if working late.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could become a senior recovery worker in charge of a team, volunteer coordinator or project team leader. 

You could also specialise in working with a particular user group, like young people.

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Last updated: 13 September 2018