Page last updated at 12:42 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Drug addicts face losing benefits

Drug paraphernalia
The plans form part of the Welfare Reform Bill

Plans to cut benefits for drug addicts in London who do not attend treatment programmes are to be discussed in the House of Commons.

Tony McNulty, minister for London and welfare reform, said without these conditions taxpayers' money would end up in drug dealers' pocket.

Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell said the plans gave addicts the chance to "turn their lives around".

Critics claim the move could adversely impact addicts' families.

Mr McNulty said: "An addict cannot sustain a crack or heroin habit on benefits levels and will already be getting money from other, possibly illegal, sources."

"Getting drug users back into work is a very complex process and we are urging the government to recognise this.

The reality is the government could have dealt with many of these people under existing rules but have chosen to turn a blind eye
Theresa May, Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary

"Unless we break the cycle of addiction, we won't break the cycle of drug-related crime.

"It is wrong that we hand over benefit money to people knowing that the money will end up in the pockets of drugs dealers."

Delyth Evans, a spokesperson for Addaction, a drug and alcohol treatment charity, said: "We support more measures to get drug users into treatment programmes but we are concerned about the impact on the families, particularly the children of drug users if their benefits are cut."

Meanwhile, Mr Purnell said: "We will give drug users who play by the rules the chance to turn their lives around.

"In return, we will expect addicts in London to take up this support so that benefits are going to help people overcome their problems, not into the pockets of drug dealers."

Crackdown

"Across the UK, we estimate that more than 180,000 crack and heroin addicts are in receipt of benefits. This is not a problem that will go away and the Tories cannot sit back and say we should do nothing.

"Rather than handing out benefits with no questions asked, they must support Labour's plans to give real help to vulnerable people to kick the habit."

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Theresa May, said: "Labour have had twelve years to crackdown on drug addicts claiming benefits but they now admit that there are over 180,000 addicts are on the dole.

"Of course Conservatives will support measures to require drug users to seek treatment. The reality is the government could have dealt with many of these people under existing rules but have chosen to turn a blind eye."

The second reading of the Welfare Reform Bill takes place on Tuesday.



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