Proposed drug testing of welfare recipients

Current Status

 The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Drug Testing Trial) Bill 2018 is currently before the House of Representatives.

Logan is one of three potential trial sites for the Australian Government's proposed drug testing of welfare recipients.

The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Drug Testing Trial) Bill 2018 proposes a two-year trial to test up to 5,000 new recipients of Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance (other) for illicit substances. The other trial sites are Canterbury-Bankstown (New South Wales), and Mandurah (Western Australia).

  • If someone taking part in the trial tests positive to a drug test, they will be placed onto income management for 24 months. They will receive a BasicsCard that will hold 80 per cent of their welfare payment. This card can be used to buy essentials. The remaining 20 per cent will go into their regular bank account.
  • People who test positive to the initial drug test will be subject to random tests during the trial period. The first random test will take place within 25 working days of the first positive test.
  • People who test positive to more than one drug test in the 24-month period will be referred to a contracted medical professional for assessment. The trial participant will need to complete any recommended treatment activities.
  • It is expected that approximately 2,500 participants will be tested at the Logan trial site (about half of the total trial participants).

The stated aim of the trial is to 'improve a recipient's capacity to find employment or take part in education and training by identifying people with drug use issues and assisting them to undertake treatment'.

Our position

We support the trial's aim of improving the capacity of people with problematic drug issues to find employment.

We do not believe the current proposed model will achieve its aim.

We support calls from the local drug and alcohol services sector for a needs analysis before the Australian Government invests funds in the trial. A needs analysis would make sure the right support is provided in the most effective areas.

We have proposed things that we believe will improve the trial. Our proposal has support from the Logan: City of Choice Leadership Team and representatives from the drug and alcohol services sector.

For more information download our Proposed improved delivery model PDF (214 KB).

Key advocacy activities

  • September 2017: We met with key Ministers, Shadow Ministers and Senators to raise concerns about the trial. There is concern about the lack of local consultation and already over-stretched local drug and alcohol services.
  • January 2018: We made a submission to the Federal Budget requesting the Federal Government consider funding drug and alcohol treatment services in high-need areas. This funding is needed, regardless of whether the drug-testing trials are passed.
  • March 2018: The Logan: City of Choice Leadership Team 2017–2019 identified that responding to the proposed trial is one of its initial three priorities.
  • April 2018: We made a formal submission to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee into the bill. We were one of 51 submitters opposing the bill.
  • April 2018: We hosted one of two public hearings of the Senate Committee. We were among witnesses to speak on behalf of the Logan community.
  • May 2018: The Logan: City of Choice Leadership Team arranged a discussion group with local drug and alcohol sector experts to identify and propose potential changes to the trial delivery model.

Government response

We have received two responses from the Department of Social Services and Minister for Social Services, the Hon. Dan Tehan MP. The responses have raised more questions and concerns. We expressed our concerns in our latest response, which was developed in partnership with the Logan: City of Choice Leadership Team and local sector experts.

Next steps

We will continue to track the bill's progress through the legislative process. We will continue to advocate for changes that we believe will help the trial achieve its aims.