Workforce Wellbeing

Workforce Wellbeing

As part of First Step's ongoing efforts to INTEGRATE consideration of drugs and alcohol into everyday life we created Workforce Wellbeing.  Workforce Wellbeing provides a number of core services and a number of optional additional services to partner organisations.  One strata of industry in which there is heightened awareness of the value of the kind of support that First Step offers through Workforce Wellbeing is organisations that support apprentices.

Why provide drug and alcohol support to apprentices in particular?

Apprentices have a higher risk of harm from drug and alcohol than any other workforce group.
Young, male tradespersons have the highest rates of drug and alcohol use in our community. Recent studies have indicated that:

  • 27% of tradespersons have used illicit drugs in the last 12 months, compared to 17% of other workers . 
  • Workers aged 14-19 years are 3 times more likely to use drugs than those aged 40-49 years1
  • 4% of tradespersons went to work under the influence of illicit drugs in the last 12 months1 
  • 41% of apprentices drink 6 or more drinks at least weekly compared to less than 17% of 18-24 year olds .

There is good evidence that drug and alcohol risk can be reduced

There is solid Australian and international evidence that the following are effective in reducing the frequency and harm of alcohol and other drugs
• Skills-based prevention programs that foster substance and peer refusal abilities
• Workplace drug and alcohol policies
• Brief interventions
• Motivational interviewing

Services offered

Basic Program of Support

1) Periodic Drug and alcohol risks presentations

Topics include:

  • The frequency of drug and alcohol use in the general population
  • Risks related to drug and alcohol use
  • Strategies for refusing drug use
  • Screening for risk levels of drug and alcohol consumption
  • Access to rehabilitation and treatment
  • Employer and employee obligations (based on workplace drug and alcohol policy)

2) Field Officer Hotline
Field Officers are assigned a skilled, qualified and experience First Step staff member to call when they are concerned about an apprentice or other staff member. Advice and support are offered immediately over the phone. This typically results in one or more phone support and/or onsite sessions with the apprentice in question (see number 3)

3) Telephone motivational interviewing for staff needing extended support
Workers can schedule telephone counselling with a registered nurse who specialises in drug and alcohol recovery.

4) Onsite counselling and recovery assistance
Workers can attend our St Kilda clinic to access a multidisciplinary team of drug and alcohol recovery specialists, including general practitioners, mental health nurses and psychologists.

Optional Additional Programs

1) Interactive SMS support
Workers will receive a mixture of health messages (approx. 1 per fortnight) and the briefest possible health assessments (approx. monthly).

2) FIeld officer/manager debriefing
Debriefing for field officers (or other staff members) with a psychologist at First Step (onsite, telephone or Skype).

3) Development of a drug and alcohol policy for each organisation
The drug and alcohol policy generally includes:
• Clear guidance regarding the consequences for drug and alcohol use
• Processes for supporting staff wanting to reduce their drug or alcohol dependence
First Step will not write policies, but rather provide advice on current best practice in the industry.

Evidence of effectiveness

Brief interventions

Brief interventions have been found in a meta-analysis of randomly controlled trials to reduce alcohol consumption by an average of 4 standard drinks per week and the positive effects continue for at least 12 months . The health and social costs of alcohol reduce by 38% following brief interventions .

Follow-up with the general First Strep population shows a reduction in drug and alcohol use in 85% of clients. Over a 6 month period, the average change in consumption over that time is a 53% reduction.

Telephone counselling

Cost-effectiveness studies suggest that both motivational interviewing and cognitive behavioural therapy approaches save about five times as much in expenditure on health, social, and criminal justice services as they cost .


First Step has two pricing models. Option A is a capitated model where a set fee is paid per 100 staff on a monthly basis for each of the programs activated. Option B is a fee-for-service arrangement whereby the organisation receives a monthly invoice for only those services that are used plus a monthly on call flat fee. It is important to note that option A (the capitated model) does not have an on-call fee and calculates fees at a rate approximately one-third cheaper than option B (fee-for-service).

Depending on the pricing option chosen and the optional programs activated, the costs for Workforce Wellbeing by First Step varies between $0.25 and $0.40 per weekday per employee/apprentice.

Please see our website for more information about First Step. Call or email Patrick Lawrence if you would like to find out more about the program:
(03) 9537 3177

At First Step we believe in giving everybody every chance to make the most of their lives. We see Workplace Services as a mutually beneficial arrangement that creates opportunities for potentially vulnerable Victorians to access expert care many years (or even decades) earlier than they would otherwise seek help. And it saves lives.