Reports that two-thirds of beneficiaries who fail drug tests are still having their benefit sanctioned contradicts the Government’s so-called health approach to drugs. Auckland Action Against Poverty is calling on the Government to immediately act on its word and end the drug-test sanction regime.
“We’ve got a hypocritical Government punishing beneficiaries who fail drug-tests yet speaks of moving towards a health based approach to drug use, reassuring people it was not aiming to continue applying this sanction last year”, says Ricardo Menendez March, Auckland Action Against Poverty Coordinator.
“The drug-testing regime is not only expensive, but most people who are subjected to one don’t test positive for drug use. The people who test positive and have a substance abuse problem need support, not punishment.
“Cutting people’s incomes when they have a substance abuse problem only exposes them and their families to more harmful substances, as well as potential homelessness and other health risks.
“Last year Minister Carmel Sepuloni admitted that the drug test sanction regime is harmful to beneficiaries, but failed to act on to ensure the sanction was no longer applied. As with other aspects of welfare reform, this Government has been slow to act on its promise of building a welfare system that allows people to live with dignity. Continuing to apply this sanction despite reassurances by the Deputy Chief Executive of Work and Income and the Minister of Social Development exemplifies the ongoing toxic culture at Work and Income.
“The Welfare Expert Advisory Group, commissioned by the Government, was clear that the drug testing sanction regime needed to be put to an end. The Government needs to listen to its own reports and communities on the ground and introduce this change.”