Swanswell highlights concerns over substance misuse benefit plans

06 November 2012

Plans to strip sickness benefits from people affected by alcohol or drug misuse if they don’t seek help could do more harm than good, Swanswell believes.

The national charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug use, is responding to news of a government proposal which could see employment and support allowance payments stopped, if claimants refuse treatment for substance misuse.

According to The Telegraph, trials across the country will be announced before Christmas and the pilots will be based on a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ model.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘While we welcome the idea of helping more people into treatment for substance misuse, we think that cutting an individual’s sickness benefit could make their situation worse

The reasons behind someone’s alcohol and drug misuse can be very complex and that first step into treatment is often the most difficult – it’ll only be effective if they want to do it, not if they’re forced to because their payments might get stopped.

In some cases, sickness benefit could be their only source of income and losing access to it would leave them with serious financial difficulties, adding to the problems alcohol or drug misuse can bring.

We agree more needs to be done to help people change their lives for the better but it’s not something that can happen overnight.

Society’s view about alcohol and drug use needs to change - we all need to address the stigma associated with people affected by substance misuse to really make a difference, so they don’t feel ashamed about coming forward for help.’

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