Jobcentre busy-bodies could soon have the power to force people in treatment for drug or alcohol problems to take up full time ‘work related activity’ if they are unable to beat their addictions quickly enough.
The DWP has published guidance on the support (stop laughing) that will be offered to people claiming Universal Credit who have a dependency on drugs or alcohol. Claimants will be given six months to undergo what the Jobcentre calls ‘structured treatment’ during which period they may not be required to look or prepare for work. After this has elapsed however it will be a very diferent story.
The guidance warns that any further treatment will only be taken into account in a Claimant Comitment if Jobcentre advisors agree this if the best way for a claimant to achieve their ‘employment goals’. This truly chilling move means that the newly named ‘work coaches’ will be able to demand someone attends workfare raher than continue with treatment for their condition. Jobcentre staff have no adequate training to make these decisions but they will now have more power over patients than the medical professionals treating them. It is not hard to imagine some jumped up sanction happy Jobcenre twat deciding someone who has relapsed needs a short sharp shock of forced work which they will possibly fail to attend and end up being sanctioned for.
Of course the Jobcentre cannot actually stop anyone attending treatment. But if a counselling or support sessions happens to clash with what they’ve decided you should do that day then you may face benefits being stopped for choosing getting better over ‘work related activity’.
The good news is that Iain Duncan Smith’s plan to force people into treatment seems to have been quietly abandoned, at least officially. The document states that: “You will not be forced by your work coach into receiving treatment.”
It does not say what will happen if you refuse treatment. It all sounds a bit like so-called voluntary unpaid work schemes. There is a danger that if someone doesn’t agree to go into treatment then they may end up being sent on workfare instead.
Whilst some people with dependencies can lead functional lives the stark fact is that the most chaotic drug and alcohol users are not fit for work. And they won’t get fit for work within six months. Some people have to wait that long to get into rehab. Whilst the pampered rich may be able to check into a plush private clinic and then go back to their warm homes and affluent lifestyles, the poorest face long waiting lists, shit housing, and now, the likelihood of benefit sanctions.
If there were any grown ups at the DWP then they would understand that addiction is a serious and complex health problem which cannot always simply be fixed in six months. An adequate social security system needs to accept this and not drive people into the ground if they are unable to work. Employers are hardly rushing out to hire people with current drug and alcohol problems anyway. There are two million people without these problems desperately looking for work after all.
But a realistic approach to how society handles addiction would not get Iain Duncan Smith any pats on the head from the Daily Mail. So instead the Government is adopting policies based on lazy tabloid stereotypes which will do more harm than good. And cost more money in the long run. It’s enough to drive you to fucking drink.
You can read the guidance at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/universal-credit-support-if-you-are-dependent-on-drugs-or-alcohol
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