An increase in crime, homelessness and desperation among Australia’s most vulnerable are the likely consequences of the announcement by Treasurer Scott Morrison that welfare payments eligibility will be directly linked to drug testing.

“While any effort to encourage people to take steps to control a drug problem and get into treatment are to be welcomed, linking the eligibility of welfare payments to complex mental health problems is a recipe for crime and homelessness,” said John Ryan, CEO of Penington Institute.

“When similar ideas were included in the Budget of 2014 most Australians realised that imposing mandatory periods of non-payment of welfare are likely to have a significant and detrimental impact on community safety – with people unable to access payments forced to rely on crime and to fall through the safety net into further poverty.”

“This is the road that the Government is proposing to go down again in 2017 – but just for people with drug issues,” Mr Ryan said.

“While the Treasurer’s speech includes mention of a ‘two-way street’ the reality is that no one would really want to be walking in the shoes of most of the people who have drug and mental health issues and who rely on welfare for the bare necessities of food and rent.

“It is not a glamorous or easy life – it is one where people barely succeed in making ends meet every day.

“People in this situation often have extremely complex mental health needs and to risk their welfare because they are using drugs of dependence is not a compassionate response,” he said.

“I strongly urge the Government to reconsider and reverse this retrograde approach to welfare before we see the increase in crime it is likely to create.

“In Australia there is a real lack of funding for drug treatment services – including medically supported drug treatment. The Government would have been better off making stronger investments there rather than attacking the vulnerable.”

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Contact: Sophie Marcard 03 8662 3808 or 0400 089 653 and