Most of the 330,000 users of crack cocaine or heroin in England are unemployed. Three quarters are on welfare benefits, and around half of them are in drug treatment. However over 100,000 heroin and crack addicts are receiving welfare benefits without receiving any treatment at all.
Helping drug users on benefit into treatment is the first step to helping them regain control over their lives so they can overcome their addiction, be safer and healthier, and reintegrate into society.
Identification and referrals to a treatment provider for users of crack cocaine and/or heroin will be a key part of supporting people in their journey back to work. Support in finding or returning to employment, and access to training, volunteering or other opportunities for engaging in meaningful activity, are an important part of helping the client.
To support the Government’s commitment set out in the 2008 drugs strategy (Drugs: Protecting Families and Communities) to ensure that the benefit system supports the new focus on re-integration and personalisation the Department of Work and Pensions has decided that it will be piloting a new regime for problem drug users (heroin and crack cocaine users) in five Jobcentre Plus Districts (Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria, West Yorkshire, Birmingham and Solihull and Central London).
The two-year scheme will start in October 2010 will seek to identify. assess and refer to a rehabilitation programme. all heroin and crack cocaine users who are in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) who are not already receiving treatment for their drug problem.
Those who refuse to undergo an assessment will be required to undertake a single or a series of drug tests carried out by Jobcentre Plus, and risk a financial sanction for failing to undertake any of the mandatory activities. While on the new regime (for a maximum of twelve months) they will be paid a treatment allowance in place of their benefits. .
Drug users in receipt of JSA and ESA who are already in treatment for their drug use will not be affected by this pilot scheme and will continue to receive treatment and benefits as long as they are in treatment.