Drug testing welfare recipients doesn’t work: Physicians disappointed in Senate Report that flies in the face of evidence

October 10, 2019

Australia’s largest specialist medical college is disappointed in a Senate Inquiry report released today, which neglects to consider wide ranging evidence that drug testing welfare recipients leads to more harm than good.

The Senate Inquiry report into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Drug Testing Trial) Bill 2019 has today recommended that the Government pursue their plan to trial drug testing of 5,000 welfare participants across three trial sites.

The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) remains strongly opposed to this Bill, on the basis that it is not evidence-based, goes against all the expert advice provided to the Government on the matter, and is likely to be clinically harmful to people suffering with drug and/or alcohol addiction.

The Bill’s stated aim is to improve a recipient’s capacity to find employment or participate in education or training by identifying people with drug use issues and assisting them to undertake treatment. It is our careful assessment, that drug testing will have an adverse rather than positive impact on achieving that outcome.

The RACP supports the need for Government action to help overcome drug and alcohol addiction in the community and improve employment outcomes, but drug testing welfare recipients is in no way a solution – in fact, it creates further health problems in the community.

The recommendations of this report contradict the expert advice and evidence from all the addiction, health and social care experts, who are united in their opposition to drug testing welfare recipients

If the Federal Government is serious about addressing addiction and assisting people to gain employment, it needs to invest in quality, evidence-based alcohol and drug treatment services and a suitably trained workforce.

Drug testing welfare participants is in no way an effective strategy to improving employment or health outcomes in the community and the RACP urges all Parliamentarians to oppose this Bill which flies in the face of evidence.

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