WACOSS position on mandatory drug testing
August 30, 2017
WACOSS condemns the drug-testing of welfare recipients. The policy demonises people on low incomes and does not address addiction, which is a serious health issue and requires an equally serious response. There is no evidence that drug testing people of income support works, and goes against previous recommendations to Government, from the Australian National Council on Drugs.
Our big concern is random drug testing will have negative and dangerous results for everyone, both the majority of people who do not have a drug problem, and a small group of people who do. In NZ 0.49% of people tested positive for drugs (466 of 95,000 people tested). If a person has an addiction, they are most likely to avoid being tested, leaving them destitute without access to any income. This will risk driving people into homelessness and crisis, exactly the opposite of what is needed to support someone dealing with an addiction.
For the people who are subjected to testing for no reason, this will just add further to their humiliation and sense of personal degradation. It’s not a crime to be unemployed, and we know from numerous evaluations of income management that this approach does not result in systemic behaviour change and can do more harm than good. WACOSS is 100% opposed to drug testing of income support recipients.
The Department has also announced that it will be committing up to $10 million for a dedicated treatment fund. This fund will provide additional drug treatment support in the three locations if existing state or commonwealth supports and services are not sufficient to meet any additional demand as a result of the trial. The Department has stated they will be engaging with stakeholders in the trial sites in the lead up to the trial. Details of the treatment fund will be determined in consultation with the Department of Health, Primary Health Networks and the drug and alcohol sector.