Government rules out benefit sanctions for refusing treatment


People with drug and alcohol problems should not be made to undergo treatment in order to claim benefits, according to a long-awaited review by Dame Carol Black.

The review, which was originally announced last year, was tasked with exploring the best ways to ‘support benefit claimants with addictions and potentially treatable conditions’ – including obesity – back into work, and re-ignited the controversial debate over whether benefit entitlement should be linked to agreeing to enter treatment (DDN, September 2105, page 4).

‘We are clear that benefit claimants with addictions should, like all other claimants, do all they can to re-enter work,’ the document states. ‘Mandation’ of treatment, however, is likely to lead to more people ‘hiding their addiction’, says An independent review into the impact on employment outcomes of drug or alcohol addiction, and obesity. The review also heard ‘serious concerns’ from health professionals about the ‘legal and ethical implications of mandating treatment, and whether this would be a cost effective approach’. The government has confirmed that the proposals are ‘not under consideration’.

Among the document’s many recommendations are that the government should agree an ‘expanded recovery measure’ that includes work and ‘meaningful activity outcomes’ such as volunteering, and support joined up working between job centres and treatment services. Jobcentre Plus should also work with treatment providers to trial a network of peer mentors ‘to act as advocates and visible symbols of recovery’, it adds, while the government should work with employers to develop guidance on best practice in recruiting people with drug and alcohol issues.

‘Fractured commissioning responsibilities and lines of accountability’ can make coordinated action across the treatment system challenging, however, says the report. ‘Addiction treatment does not, in itself, ensure employment, though it brings other social gains’, it adds, stating that work ‘has not hitherto been an integral part of treatment’, but needs to be if progress is to be made. The benefits system also requires ‘significant change’, it stresses, as it is characterised by ‘severe’ lack of information on health conditions, poor incentives for staff to tackle difficult or long-term cases, and ‘patchy offers of support’. Providing treatment alone, without skills or housing support, is likely to have little impact on improving employment prospects, it stresses.

Collective Voice said it welcomed the report as ‘an ideal opportunity to remedy this long standing problem which, as the review points out, treatment providers cannot address in isolation. Dame Carol has provided a roadmap identifying realistic practical steps to give as many service users as possible a real prospect to earn their own livings and provide for their families.’

Report at