Inexcess: In search of recovery

Help and support for people and families
dealing with drug and alcohol problems


Alcohol and drugs in the news

Threatening Behaviour

Thursday, April 16th, 2009 Threatening Behaviour

The Government is no stranger in using their own terror tactics when it comes to implementing its own set of standards. An unsurprising suggestion has emerged with reference to alcoholics that are unable to work as a consequence of their addiction. Unless they get help to sober up, then it is likely that their benefit entitlement according to James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary, will be stripped as reported in the Telegraph’s Rosa Prince, Political Correspondent (14 04 09).

Arguably Purnell sets out his plan. Indeed there is already a scheme directed at drug users, by which they are required to seek treatment as one of the primary conditions of claiming state support. This will now be extended to alcoholics.

It is understood that job centres will refer alcoholics for treatment. In addition those that refuse to attend or do not complete the course will see their benefits stopped.

Purnell argues “We have introduced a new policy that will mean heroin and crack addicts get treatment in return for benefits.

“We will help them to get clean rather than simply handing them money which ends up in pockets of drug dealers.

“But we can’t abandon anyone to long periods on benefits without help to overcome problems.

“So that’s why Alan Johnson the Health Secretary and I are going to look the arrangements for alcoholics on benefits, just as we did for problem drug users, so that people get help they need to get sober, to get their life back and get back to work.”

Mr Purnell was speaking at the Dewsbury Moor Community Centre in Yorkshire, to an audience which included a number of people who joined in the hunt last year for Shannon Matthew, a local nine-year-old who went missing for 24 days and was eventually found to have been kidnapped with the help of her own mother.

The drama led to severe criticism of the culture on some local estates, where a high proportion of residents are on benefits.

Mr Purnell vowed that despite the economic downturn, the Government would not give up on communities such as Dewsbury

He said: “Of course in this neighbourhood we saw a powerful example of the bad that one or two individuals can do. But we should never forget we also saw an inspiring example of the good that a whole community coming together can do.

“Day after day, night after night, people came together to help look for a little girl.

“When I come here, yes I see problems. I see people who need a push to get into work, I see some people not meeting their responsibilities a parents as neighbours and as citizens.

“But I also see people struggling to do good. I see people with ambitions and aspirations. I see parents who love their children. I see people with potential and dreams for the future. And I see a new welfare state as the way to help people unlock their future.”

However, according to the BBC (14 04 09) the shadow work and pensions secretary Theresa May said this latest review was “another smokescreen” to “deflect from Labour’s failure to get to grips with our welfare system”.

She added: “Under James Purnell the system has gone into meltdown with more than 100,000 people claiming benefits because they are drug addicts or alcoholics. That’s more than doubled from 48,700 since 1997.

“The government has had more than a decade to sort this problem out so this is too little, too late.

“The devil is always in the detail with Labour. Mr Purnell has failed to say when this will happen, how much it will cost and who it will exactly help.”

Furthermore, Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman Steve Webb said the plans were “no more than typical New Labour posturing”.

He added: “Threatening to deprive people of their basic benefits unless they recover from alcoholism is fundamentally inhumane.
“There are far too few support services for alcoholics, and there is no evidence that people who are threatened in this way are more likely to seek help.”

A spokesman for drug and alcohol treatment charity Addaction said that, historically, help for people with alcohol problems was under-funded.

“We support measures to get treatment to the people who need it, but that treatment needs proper funding to be effective,” he said.

“Stopping someone’s benefits could have a real impact on any children they may have. It’s essential that families are taken into account when such decisions are being made.”

One reformed alcoholic - who gave her name only as Linda - said she stopped drinking 18 years ago, having sought help from Alcoholics Anonymous.

“I went onto benefits when I stopped drinking. I was so grateful that the government paid me incapacity benefit and gave me the help I needed,” she told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

She said alcoholism was an illness which could not be “bullied” away.
“I only stopped when the time was right for me. I couldn’t be bullied or cajoled or told to stop drinking,” she added.

Do all successive governments miss the point? We look forward to any comments.

Share This Page:
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Google
  • E-mail this story to a friend!
  • TwitThis