Random drug testing for Centrelink recipients

Samaritans CEO

Last week’s budget saw the announcement of random drug testing for people receiving Centrelink support payments. This is just another way of demonising people who are battling addiction and an unfortunate addition to an already difficult and often demeaning process.

At Samaritans, we provide support services to people overcoming drug and alcohol addictions and we provide such services without judgement or assumption. There is no value in playing the blame game for people who are struggling to overcome addiction. We see that there is no benefit in this solution; it is simply taking money off those who already are struggling.

There needs to be resources and funding attached to Centrelink payments for people to attend Alcohol and Other Drug programs, rather than taking away support payments with no recourse. These people need to be supported in overcoming their addiction, rather than being put in a situation of increased financial stress.

Drug addiction and no money could very well result a rise in the crime rate, suicide rate and the number of children not attending school or attending without food. This is a huge problem for society- and a costly one at that.

It’s costly because the welfare sector and providers such as Samaritans will have to pick up the pieces when people are taken off their Centrelink. People we support will lose their housing which will increase the levels of homelessness. They will not be able to get to appointments including medical or therapy programs because they will have no money on their Opal Cards. They will be hungry and unable to feed children, which will result in increased demand in our Emergency Relief centres.

Drug replacement therapy costs between $50-70 per week if the person is attending a pharmacy outside of the clinic- this is a necessary expense for someone trying to overcome a drug addiction and something which will be completely unaffordable if Centrelink payments are taken away. If a person overcoming a drug addiction does not get this medication, they will become really unwell and research and experience shows that they will return to using illicit drugs to suppress the addiction.

People are already stressed as a result of their employment situation. Let’s not add to the stress and instead work together to address the real issue.