Drug users and alcoholics are to be forced to enter treatment or face losing out-of-work benefits, Iain Duncan Smith will announce today.
The Work and Pensions Secretary will reveal that 160,000 dependent drinkers are in receipt of one or more of the main welfare handouts, with large numbers having been claiming for a decade or more.
Around 80 per cent of Britain’s estimated 400,000 ‘problem’ drug users are also claiming.
Sources said that the new universal credit, which is replacing all existing out-of-work benefits from next year, will be used to introduce contracts with addicts that would require them to seek treatment or see their payments halted.
In a speech tonight to an Alcoholics Anonymous event in Parliament, Mr Duncan Smith will say the change to universal credit will be used to dramatically switch the support that is currently on offer from ‘passive’ to ‘active’ intervention.
‘The outdated benefits system fails to get people off drugs and put their lives on track,’ he will say.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 start 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.’
An analysis by the Department for Work and Pensions illustrates the scale of Britain’s drug and alcohol problem.
Almost 40,000 people who claim incapacity benefits have alcoholism as their primary diagnosis.
Of these, 13,300 have been claiming for a decade or more. Each year, there are one million alcohol-related violent crimes and 1.2million alcohol-related hospital admissions.
A DWP source said universal credit would make it far simpler to monitor a claimant’s history and identify danger signs of alcohol or drug addiction.
‘Universal credit will flag up key things addicts do – like applying repeatedly for crisis loans, for example,’ the source said.
‘We will be making people sign a claimant contract which will require them to do everything they need to do to get a job.
‘Nine times out of ten, a job centre adviser will know or suspect when addiction is a problem.
‘People will then be told they need to go to Alcoholics Anonymous or another treatment programme, and shown the evidence that those who do engage can get better.
‘It’s about trying to break a cycle that means people simply aren’t going to get into work without the right support.’
Local authorities have been invited to pilot key elements of universal credit.
It will replace means-tested benefits paid to people of working age, all tax credits and housing benefit, consolidating about 11million claims into eight million.
The credit is designed to end perverse incentives not to work or take on more hours because benefits are withdrawn as incomes increase.