Government’s drug testing policy demeaning and flawed

The Australian Council of Social Service condemns the Government’s decision to bring back legislation that would see drug testing of people receiving Newstart or Youth Allowance in three trial sites around the country.

As reported today, the trial sites would be in Logan, Canterbury Bankstown and Mandurah and the testing would apply to new recipients.

ACOSS Director of Policy Jacqueline Phillips said: “Clearly, the Government is trying to deflect from the overwhelming, broad support for an increase to the appallingly low rates of Newstart and Youth Allowance after 25 years without a real increase.

“This Government’s proposal is designed to stigmatise people struggling to get by on the lowest incomes in the country.

“Let’s be clear about what the Government is asking people to do – it’s particularly demeaning to have to provide a urine sample just because you’re unfortunate enough to have lost your job, even when you may be in your fifties and have never touched drugs your life.

“People on Newstart are trying hard to find paid work – they include older people who’ve faced age discrimination in the workforce, with half of people on Newstart over 45; young people trying to get a foot in the door after uni or TAFE; and single mothers searching for employment that allows for their caring responsibilities.

“Not only is this proposal demeaning, there’s no evidence that it would work.

“Many health experts have expressed concern that drug testing income support recipients is ineffective and could threaten the health and wellbeing of people affected.

“Drug addiction is a health issue that impacts people regardless of their employment situation. It should not be treated as a social security compliance issue.”