Welfare drug testing trial ‘outrageous’, expert warns

A drug testing trial of new recipients of Newstart and Youth Allowance is set to be implemented across Australia despite opposition from drug specialists.

Director of the National Drug Research Institute Simon Lenton said there would be no benefit from the regime.

“As far I know there’s no scientific evidence that supports the view that using compulsion by threat of losing welfare payments will result in any reduction in drug use problems,” Professor Lenton said.

“Income managing people who test positive runs the risk of financially marginalising people, and when people get marginalised they can become desperate and are likely to lead towards drastic measures.”

Family Drug Support Australia chief executive and founder Tony Trimingham said the program would be counterproductive and has lobbied the government against taking such action.

“I can’t see the point of it personally,” he said.

“I think it’s an outrageous idea and it’s very difficult to see any positives.

“We know from years and years of experience people are only willing to change when they’re ready.

“We’ve told politicians the outcome is more likely to be negative and people are more likely to do something like crime, prostitution or dealing to get that money and that’s far worse than the benefit they hope to get.”

Five thousand random recipients from Canterbury-Bankstown, New South Wales, Logan, Queensland and Mandurah, Western Australia will be routinely tested for illicit substances over the next two years after a bill was passed in the lower house 73 votes to 67.

Recipients that test positive to illicit substances will not be referred to police, but instead be placed on income management wherein up to 80 per cent of their welfare payments will only be accessible via a cashless welfare card to be used for essentials.

A person who tested positive would be scheduled for a follow up test 25 days later, and a second positive test would see them referred to a medical professional.

A person who refused to seek treatment may have their income suspended for up to four weeks.

Police figures show drug offences in Mandurah have risen over the last 10 years with 170 offences in 2008-09 and 346 in 2017-18 and 51 in the last month.

The support line for Family Drug Support where help is available for anyone struggling with addiction is 1300 368 186.

Categories: Politics