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Move to make addicts employable
Drug addicts and alcoholics rendered unable to work by their condition will face active intervention in their lives to make them clean and employable, a Cabinet minister is to say.
Changes to the welfare system will focus on getting those claiming benefits because of reliance on drink and drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine into rehabilitation and ultimately the world of work, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith will say.
In a speech to an event hosted by Alcoholics Anonymous, he will say the Welfare State has failed the almost 360,000 addicts who rely on benefits for their income.
"The outdated benefits system fails to get people off drugs and put their lives on track," he will say.
"We have started changing how addicts are supported, but we must go further to actively take on the devastation that drugs and alcohol can cause. Under Universal Credit we want to do more to encourage and support claimants into rehabilitation for addiction and starting them on the road to recovery and eventually work.
"Getting people into work and encouraging independence is our ultimate goal. Universal Credit will put people on a journey towards a sustainable recovery so they are better placed to look for work in future and we will be outlining our plans shortly."
Statistics from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) show that almost 40,000 people claim incapacity benefits with alcoholism as their primary diagnosis. The DWP says 13,300 of these people have been claiming for at least 10 years. It also says that around 80% of Britain's estimated 400,000 "problem drug users", some 320,000 people are claiming out-of-work benefits.
Combating the effect of drink and drug addictions are the latest step in Mr Duncan Smith's controversial reform of the benefit system. The Welfare Reform Act, which received royal assent in March, brought in the universal credit system and a £26,000-a-year household benefits.
Alcohol Concern's chief executive Eric Appleby said: "At the moment, only one in 16 people with an alcohol problem are receiving specialist alcohol treatment.
"In order to make this work, job centre staff will need to be properly trained in order to recognise when someone has an alcohol problem and to be able to offer the right advice."