BARNSLEY is leading the way in supporting those suffering from addiction getting back into work.

The three-person Recovery Steps Individual Placement and Support (IPS) team has been working hard to help anyone with drug and alcohol addictions, or severe mental health issues, find employment.

Founded last February, and supported by Barnsley Council, the group has the highest success rate of any similar service in the country, with around 80 per cent of people supported currently in employment.

Since their opening they have taken on 116 people, with 85 of those in work, and companies including Barnsley FC, Cygnet Healthcare, GXO and ASOS offering support.

Lead employment specialist, Paul Harrison, said: “The people we work with need specialist, wrap-around support for employment. We liaise with health workers, clinicians and employers, to provide support, and give them a light at the end of the tunnel. A fair few people have told us that this is life-changing for them.”

The work Paul - and his fellow employment specialists Kim Hunter and Cheryl Turner - offer doesn’t only include helping unemployed people to find work, but also seeking alternative employment for anyone whose job is the cause of their issues.

“I think there’s a lot more people struggling with work-related stress than you’d think,” Paul added.

“From what I’ve seen, when they change jobs it fixes 80 or 90 per cent of the issues.

“That doesn’t mean there aren’t other problems - often we see how unemployed people with too much time on their hands can fall into a spiral.

“They end up damaging their mental and physical health, which only worsens their issues. It’s all about finding fulfilling work that can help give people a purpose.”

One person IPS supported, whose name cannot be shared, said: “IPS have made it possible for me to smile again. I met Cheryl at a time where I felt hopeless and lonely. I could not see to the end of the year, even being alive.

“Cheryl has given me every reason and more to use my past trauma as a way of building myself and my character and be in a better place.”

To be referred to the team, people must already be receiving support from Recovery Steps.

Those receiving support may request to be referred, in which case a member of the IPS team will review the situation and see if it is appropriate for them to handle.

A Barnsley Recovery Steps spokesperson said: “We are incredibly proud of the IPS team. They are currently the best in the country and we are grateful for Cheryl, Kim and Paul’s hard work.”