Benefit sanctions for people suffering addiction will cause relapse, warns The Salvation Army

published on 5 Oct 2016

A government proposal to force unemployed people with drug and alcohol dependency to accept treatment or risk losing benefits may exacerbate addiction problems, warns The Salvation Army.

One in 15 working-age benefit claimants is dependent on drugs, and 1 in 25 suffer from alcohol addiction (DWP statistics). The Government has commissioned an independent review into the impact of addiction on unemployment, which is investigating whether to link benefit entitlement with treatment and support.

However, The Salvation Army, which cares for thousands of people experiencing addiction, homelessness or unemployment, warns that addicts need long-term treatment to overcome their dependency, and forcing them into short-term quick fix treatment or cutting their benefits could cause relapse.


We hosted an expert panel event at the Conservative party conference on 5 October on the issue.

“Anyone who has ever tried giving up smoking, or gone on a diet will know that it is surprisingly hard to change your routine,” explained Mitch Menagh, head of Homelessness Services of The Salvation Army.

“For people with serious substance abuse problems, who have often lost their job, their home, their family, friends, their sense of purpose, it is much harder. So the road to recovery is not smooth and falling off the wagon is part of the journey. Stress can cause relapse and benefit sanctions is not an appropriate tool to motivate those with substance abuse issues to accept treatment.”

Stuart, from Caerphilly, suffered from drug and alcohol dependency: “I was drinking and using drugs while attempting to hold down a job keeping my addictions very much to myself. Unfortunately things started going pear-shaped at home, I lost my job and that was the end of living with my mum. I then made my way to Cardiff where I was homeless. I was drinking heavily and using drugs. I knew I needed to get help. I first started with The Salvation Army Bridge Programme in Cardiff and I gave myself three months before I thought I would fail, but with their help and support this hasn’t been the case.

“It’s been hard, and taken a long time, and there is no way I would have done this if it weren’t for the support, guidance and inspiration the Bridge staff placed in me – allowing me to believe in myself! My children say they are so proud of me.”

The Salvation Army panel event, No Easy Fix: The Journey from Addiction to Employment featured:

         Chair Dr Helen Cameron – Head of Public Affairs          Mitch Menagh - Territorial Director of Homelessness Services          Major Julian Watchorn – Director of Employment Services          Lee Ball – Territorial Addiction Services Officer          Bernard - E+ Work Programme participant          Stuart Drucker – Bridge programme participant

It took place at 12 pm at Friends Meeting House, Mount Street in Manchester on 5 October 2015.