GET TREATMENT OR LOSE BENEFITS –
BUT WHAT DOES THE GOVERNMENT MEAN BY "TREATMENT"?
"For the majority on benefits, it will be clear that State support should be only temporary… Those with drug problems will be offered places on treatment programmes but will have to attend them," stated work and pensions minister James Purnell just before today’s Green Paper [21 July 2008].
"For those out of the labour market for a long time or who are playing the system, the Green Paper will suggest people should do full-time work for their benefits, to get them back into the work habit."
Initially, that sounds like a solution – but what exactly does Purnell and government mean by "treatment"?
How will they assess people using drugs, to know who are merely abusing them – thus needing lighter interventions – and who are truly dependent on them, needing more intensive, residential rehab?
Who will be doing the assessments? What are their qualifications?
And how many ‘treatment’ facilities have been formally prepared for this extra influx of patients?
At this moment in time, there are already waiting lists of people desperate to get into rehab – but empty beds in those charitable units as the government’s Drug Action Team commissioners are not referring many patients to them – only 3.6% of the 128,000 patients referred through the DATs manage to get into residential treatment. Addiction Today was informed, for example, that Somerset DAT has referred absolutely no patients to rehab since the start of this budget year. At a recent meeting of the umbrella body EATA, treatment providers warned that they might have to close due to lack of patient referrals from the DATs – this week, one of them, Adapt, has one into receivership.
Also, the default ‘treatment’ chosen by DATs is methadone maintenance. Widespread inappropriate prescribing – not only in the UK – means that patients appear disoriented and ‘high’: not traits to ensure any prospective employer could feel confident in recruiting them. How will Purnell and his team rectify this?