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Welfare offers a valuable service to most people who are on it. From the single mother struggling to make ends meet while working two low-paying jobs to the disabled veteran who deserves a leg up from the government he fought for overseas. But every so often someone cons the system and gets something for nothing. Perhaps, they keep having children to get bigger and bigger welfare checks, or they use their welfare cash to buy drugs on the streets. Now Australia is aiming to stop giving welfare to recipients who are on drugs. How? By randomly forcing all recipients to take a drug test before they get their government handout. Is this fair? Many Australians think so, but the liberals are pushing back.
Politicians and citizens don’t like the idea of giving tax money to people who aren’t trying to improve their lot in life. If they’re just going to use it to do drugs and stay on the couch all day, the taxpayer shouldn’t be forced to cover for them. That’s the logic behind this new plan in Australia to randomly drug test welfare recipients. But many doctors, nurses and other health care professional don’t think this is the best way to go. And they’ve banded together to oppose the conservative move to drug test those who want money from the government.
Hundreds of health care professionals signed a letter that went to the Senate inquiry hearing on Wednesday. It warns that instituting the drug test would push vulnerable Austrailans “further into the margins.”
“If we had been consulted, we could have said that people cannot be punished into recovery. Using drug testing to coerce people into treatment treats drug and alcohol problems as some sort of personal failing – not the serious health problem it is,” the letter reads.
Marianne Jauncy the medical director at Uniting Care claims nearly 1,000 professionals signed the letter that was written by GetUp, a political activists group.
327 doctors, 111 addiction specialists and 197 nurses signed.
“We are drawing on clear international experience when we say that this trial would be ineffective, expensive and counterproductive,” Jauncy said. “Not only will this trial fail to improve people’s chance of employment, which is its stated aim – it has the potential to cause harm by pushing people to the edge and reducing their support.”
The Australian government plans to unveil their drug-testing plan into three sites with high welfare usage. These include areas in Queensland, Sydney and Western Australia.
The government will randomly test urine and saliva from 5,000 welfare recipients looking for traces of marijuana, crystal methamphetamine and other drugs.
If someone fails a drug test, they will be forced onto income management, which restricts 80 percent of their handouts to “basics.”
If the drug test is failed again, the welfare recipient will be forced into rehab and must cover the cost of the drug tests themselves. If they don’t get treatment, these welfare recipients could lose their government benefits.
Drug researchers and social workers don’t think it will work. They think the drug tests will force people out of the welfare system into crime.
Should drug tests be instituted? Or is there a better way?
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