The Guardian reports a government source as saying that Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, believes it is right to give Jobcentre Plus powers to stop payments of benefit to claimants with alcohol or drug dependencies where treatment is refused. The new rules are expected to be operational from October 2013 when Universal Credit begins.

A number of organisations have voiced their concerns against such a move. Niamh Eastwood, chief executive of the charity Release points out that “​at no time during the parliamentary passage of the welfare reform bill was it proposed that the claimant contract would include a treatment or sanctions requirement. Without proper scrutiny of the proposal this should not go through”​.

Martin Barnes, chief executive of DrugScope told the Guardian “​We are surprised and concerned at reports that ministers believe that stopping benefits is an appropriate or effective way of engaging people with drug or alcohol treatment and supporting their recovery, ...If accurate this would be a reversal of the government’​s publicly stated position.”​

He warns that “​Linking benefit to a requirement to undergo treatment would set a dangerous precedent for people with physical or mental health problems”​ and that such a precedent would be “​against the principles for healthcare set out in the NHS Constitut​ion.”​

Sir Ian Gilmore, the Royal College of Physicians special adviser on alcohol told the Guardian “​Current treatment facilities for addicts in this country, particularly those with alcohol dependence, are woefully inadequate and we strongly support initiatives to improve this. However, patients must be treated with respect and given genuine choice in their treatment options, and these must be fully respected in any scheme.”​

The Guardian report and further comment can be found here


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