Plans to drug test welfare recipients rejected

Doctors and addiction experts welcome the news that the Federal Government will no longer proceed with its plan to randomly drug test 5,000 social welfare recipients as part of its Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017.

A/Prof Adrian Reynolds, President of the RACP’s Australasian Chapter of Addiction Medicine, said the measure would have subjected a vulnerable population to an ineffective, expensive and harmful drug testing regime.

“A drug testing pilot would have delivered an ineffective, expensive and harmful regime that would have hindered, not helped Australians struggling with addiction,” said A/Prof Adrian Reynolds.

“Initially, the trial would have impacted around 5,000 social welfare recipients. If implemented more broadly, many more people would have been affected.

“The reality is, well over 200,000 people with drug and alcohol addiction problems can’t access treatment and more services are urgently needed. Drug testing 5,000 welfare recipients would not have solved this problem.

“The Government’s own data shows that more than 16,000 welfare recipients are telling Centrelink there are times when they can’t meet their welfare activity requirements because of their alcohol and drug addiction. We believe that the Government’s focus should be on helping these people and we need to support the treatment sector.

“We would like to thank members of Parliament for listening to experts in the medical and social services community who made robust and evidence-based cases for the drug testing trial to not proceed.

“The RACP is keen to work with government and other key stakeholders in the drug and alcohol and wider health sector, to develop effective and evidence-based policies to address this serious health and social issue.

“We will continue to advocate for greater investment in drug and alcohol services, to improve access to these services and ensure we have a suitably-trained multidisciplinary clinical workforce, across Australia.”

Read the RACP’s submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee’s inquiry into Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017

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