Drug addicts who refuse treatment will lose benefits

UP TO 400,000 addicts could be stripped of benefits if they refuse treatment and fail to meet the normal requirements for support, the Home Office said.

Addicts who refuse treatment will be expected to "comply with the full requirements of the benefits regime or face the consequences" under the government's drugs strategy.

Charities and treatment groups welcomed the "ambitious plans" to get addicts off drugs and into work, with users who are taking steps to become drug-free offered tailored support for their needs.

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The strategy sees a shift in focus from reducing the harm caused by drugs to recovery as the most effective route out of dependency, the Home Office said.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: "Over the next four years, we are determined to break the cycle of dependence on drugs and alcohol and the wasted opportunities that result.

"This strategy sets out our clear ambition to reduce demand, restrict supply and support and achieve recovery; they are stretching but I am convinced that they can be achieved."

The drugs strategy means those "not in treatment will neither be specifically targeted with, nor excused from, sanctions by virtue of their dependence, but will be expected to comply with the full requirements of the benefits regime or face the consequences".

Work and Pensions Minister Maria Miller added: "This strategy will take a holistic approach to helping benefit claimants beat their drug and alcohol dependency, so they have every chance of competing in today's labour market.

"Those who decide to go into treatment will be offered every support to help overcome their addiction, but those who refuse it will face the same benefit sanctions as every other jobseeker."

An estimated 80 per cent of heroin and crack cocaine users were on benefits, the report said, "often for many years and their drug use presents a significant barrier to employment".

"Our aim is to increase the number of drug and alcohol-dependent benefit claimants who successfully engage with treatment and rehabilitation services and ultimately find employment, which is a key contributor to a sustained recovery."

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Under the plans, ex-addicts will also be brought in as community recovery champions to mentor others seeking help.

Pilot schemes run on a payment-by-results basis will be used to "incentivise recovery and drive success".

Powers for year-long bans for the latest legal highs will also be brought in.

Simon Antrobus, chief executive of the treatment charity Addaction, said: "We are pleased to see it recognise that a number of approaches are needed to tackle the devastating impact that drugs and alcohol have on society - and the increased focus on supporting people to recover from their addictions," he said.But campaign group Transform Drug Policy Foundation which wants to regulate drug use, criticised the policy, which dismissed legalisation or decriminalisation as the way forward.