Benefit cuts for addicts who shun rehab

Nigel Morris,Home Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 27 February 2008 01:00 GMT

Jobless drug addicts who refuse to be treated for their habit face having their benefit cut, the Government will announce today.

Around 100,000 Britons receive Incapacity Benefit (IB) because their dependence on drugs or drink is considered to render them incapable of work.

Ministers will announce that the benefits system will be reformed in such as way as to "help and encourage" heavy drug users to receive treatment. Those who refuse to co-operate by regularly attending rehabilitation courses could find that their incapacity payments are cut.

IB claimants initially receive £61.35 a week, rising to £72.55 after six months and £81.35 after 12 months.

Ministers acknowledge that cutting payments to drug addicts would prove complicated, but say that such moves are essential to ensure that addicts remain in treatment.

The Government's 10-year drug strategy will also set out plans for Ofsted to assess schools for the quality of their anti-drugs education. Social workers will be instructed to intervene at an earlier stage to monitor the children of drug-using parents. Grandparents who look after such youngsters will also receive extra help.

Ministers will legislate to enable police to seize the assets of drug dealers – down to their cars, electronic gadgets and jewellery – upon arrest rather than conviction. Currently, police can only seize their cash at the point of arrest.

The 12-year limit on criminals' assets being confiscated will be abolished and more deals signed with foreign countries to enable UK police to pursue major drug dealers overseas.

The Government argues that it is having some success in combating addiction, with the percentage of people who have experimented with illicit substances at an 11-year low.

But critics say Britain remains near the top of the European league table for heroin and cannabis use.

A Home Office source said: "Our ambition is clear – we want to ensure fewer and fewer people start using illegal substances. We want those who use drugs to enter and complete treatment, and lead healthy drug-free lives."

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