Australia’s focus must be on health not punitive drug-testing policy

22 August 2017

The St Vincent de Paul Society has condemned the Federal Government’s proposal to drug test income support recipients as a punitive, ideologically-driven measure that will demean and marginalise people who are already struggling.

“Drug testing people who receive income support is designed to humiliate and harass people, not help them,” said Dr John Falzon, CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society National Council. “We are yet to see a single piece of expert evidence or medical advice to the contrary.”

The Society’s criticisms follow on from today’s announcement that Canterbury-Bankstown will be a trial site for the Government’s mandatory drug-testing trial, which will see people in three locations drug tested prior to receiving income support. 

“Those battling addiction need support services and counselling, not humiliation and poverty,” Dr Falzon said. “The proposed trial will stigmatise those who are relying on social security and drive those with addictions into further poverty.”

The Society believes the proposed trial, which is yet to be approved by the Senate, will demonise people on low incomes and do little to address the underlying causes and effects of drug addiction.

“Evidence and experience shows that you can’t punish people who are addicted into recovery, and pushing them further into poverty only undermines the prospects of successful rehabilitation and treatment.”

“You don’t build people up by putting them down. You don’t create jobs by punishing people experiencing unemployment and exclusion,” Dr Falzon said.

“For those relying on income support, this is an ideological distraction from the real issue, which is lack of decent paid work available. This is where the government should be focusing their efforts,” Dr Falzon said.

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