The Benefits of Booze

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In what must be seen as a valiant attempt to get Sleasegate off the news, we had the release of a welfare reform proposal today. As is essential for a welfare reform proposal, it seems targetted at an undoubted injustice and appears well-meaning. However, as with all welfare reform proposals, on closer inspection it turns out to be counter-productive and largely nonsense.

james-purnell

The Government has promised to remove the benefits of any alcohol-dependant who fails to seek treatment. The injustice the policy seeks to address is clear. Even the most public-spirited person on the left would find it hard to defend state money being used to fund an alcohol addiction. It is also well-meaning. Perhaps some of these benefit claimants will be ‘cured’ of their addiction by the schemes they are forced to attend.

The nonsense of the policy is that I cannot fathom how the DWP determines which of their many thousands of claimants are alcohol-dependant. An eagle-eyed Jobcentre employee might identify the odd claimant who habitually visits carrying an open can of Tennants Super. Perhaps others will slur when they phone the DWP. The truth must surely be, however, that people self-declare their alcoholism when they attend schemes to address their alcoholism. The nonsense is that if people never attend a scheme, the Government has no idea who they are to threaten with this policy. In the worst case scenario, long-term benefit claimants will avoid schemes to address their alcoholism, lest they notify the DWP of their condition.

I remain a complete sceptic on welfare reform. By their very nature, benefits are an inconvenience to society. Nobody wants to pay them and the vast majority of people never want to receive them. If somebody receives benefits it is because society is morally obliged to pay them. Any scheme which threatens a benefit-recipient with the loss of benefits is logically a nonsense. If we withdraw benefits from these people, the State must support them in some other way. My plea to James Purnell as we battle this recession, please stop this pointless stick waving. It may produce good headlines and photo opportunities but it is not why I joined the party and it’s not why I campaigned for a 3rd term.

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One Response to “The Benefits of Booze”

  1. captainjako Says:

    “The nonsense is that if people never attend a scheme, the Government has no idea who they are to threaten with this policy.”

    Hmm, how about a bit of joined-up-government to help identify those with an alcohol problem? i.e. referrals from other areas of the public sector. Drunks habitually having to sober up in police cells or turning up at hospitals with related problems could maybe be certified by a doctor as target cases and have to declare this when claiming benefits. Isn’t the idea of this that it somehow works along the lines of Drug Treatment and Testing Orders/Drug Rehabilitation Requirements?

    I acknowledge that ‘tough love’ welfare measures have little chance of success when treatment services are underfunded and when individuals are unwilling to admit they have a problem in the first place.

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