Sunday, July 06, 2008

Drug addict? go on a benefit and don't get treatment

One of the arguments given for the welfare state is how caring and compassionate it is, and how mean, greedy and nasty are the people who actually would rather have their own money back, and then choose to spend it as they see fit, including charity or other acts of genuine benevolence.

The left would argue that the state is best trusted to care for those in need, and those who want tax cuts are less compassionate and moral that they.

So you may ask yourself why, according to the Dominion Post, 5270 drug and alcohol addicts can be on sickness and invalids benefits, defined as those who identify their addiction as the reason they cannot work - AND that none of them are required to engage in any form of treatment as a condition of receiving your money.

Imagine a single charity giving out money to addicts and saying "go on, come back for more every fortnight, and we don't care whether or not you go to treatment".

What is more alarming is the number has gone up so much in a short time "there are 2540 beneficiaries who have drug abuse listed as their primary reason for being unable to work - almost twice the 1297 listed in 2004."

Apparently "case managers could not force beneficiaries into treatment programmes". I would have thought if the government changed benefit eligibility so that if you refuse treatment you cease to get the benefit, it might be an effective way of incentivising them into treatment.

Work and Income deputy CE Patricia Reade has said though that "Many had other mental or physical health problems which prevented them from working, such as cirrhosis. Alcoholism in itself was not a reason to be off work." So presumably those problems should be listed shouldn't they, not alcoholism. Alcoholism if listed shouldn't be a grounds for the benefit if that is the case.

So what to do?

Now some on the conservative right may say that everyone getting the benefit who is a drug abuser should be incarcerated. That, after all, is what the war on drugs is about isn't it? It makes it a crime to ingest banned substances, so why should people get money for being an addict, and why shouldn't those receiving those benefits get a knock on the door from the cops with search warrants with pending charges? (Then for good measure, being tough on crime and all, if they find nothing, there is benefit fraud from NOT being a drug user!).

The better solution is that, while accepting these benefits exist for now, the system should use a carrot and stick approach to treatment. Addicts who are unable to work because of their addiction should only receive the benefit whilst they undertake treatment (and have been certified as having attended). Similarly, they should not receive the benefit whilst they use. That means testing. Whilst some of those receiving the benefits are no doubt trying on the system, others will be sad cases - feeling trapped and alone, and unsure what to do. Pulling the money away unless they undertake treatment is the only kind thing that can be done in those circumstances. You'll find the ones who are trying on the system will drop out, and maybe those who are in genuine need drop out after weeks and months of help (helping their families too).

You see it's how private welfare would ultimately work.

It is kinder than the mad Green idea of throwing more money at beneficiaries, kinder than Labour's "here's the money now you could seek treatment, but if you don't just see your doctor every 13 weeks and if you're still an addict, we''ll keep paying you", and kinder than the "throw you in jail for being a (drug) addict" of the "tough on crime" brigade.

No comments: