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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.

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

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).

  • Trial participants who test positive to a drug test will be placed onto income management for 24 months, receiving a BasicsCard that will hold 80 per cent of their welfare payment for essential purchases and the remaining 20 per cent going into their regular bank account.
  • Participants who test positive to the initial drug test will also be subject to further random tests during the trial period, the first of which will occur within 25 working days of the initial positive test.
  • Those 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 be required to complete any recommended treatment activities.
  • Half of the total trial participants (approximately 2,500) are expected to undertake testing in the Logan trial site.

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

Council's position

Council supports the trial's aim of improving the capacity of people with problematic drug issues to find employment. However, it does not believe the model as it is currently proposed will achieve that.

Council also supports calls from the local drug and alcohol services sector for a needs analysis before the Federal Government invests funds allocated to the trial, to ensure the right support is provided in the most effective areas.

With support from the Logan: City of Choice Leadership Team and representatives from the drug and alcohol services sector in Logan, we have proposed a series of measures we believe will help improve the trial, should it go ahead.

View full details of Council's position (PDF 214 KB)

Current

Proposed

Prior to first test/those not tested

The proposal is silent on the capacity for voluntary participants to access new treatment services.

Voluntary participants allowed to access new treatment and support services without having to undergo drug testing or income management

First test

Fail test:

  • Go on income management
  • No assessment, counselling  or treatment

No support services offered

Fail test:

  • Go on income management
  • Assessment by medical professional to determine if treatment required.
  • One-on-one counselling to identify other support required including:
    • financial management
    • housing
    • employment/training
    • domestic and family violence intervention.

Provide opportunity for the client to voluntarily bring together any other agencies they are involved with, to provide a holistic approach to helping them move beyond problematic drug use and into employment.

Second test

(25 days later)

Fail test:

  • Referred to a contracted medical professional for assessment.
  • If required, must undertake treatment activities.

Fail 25 day test:

  • Continue with the above treatment and support plan.
  • The client is tested again at completion of treatment.
  • If they pass that test, they are released from income management.

Pass 25 day  test:

  • Release from income management.
  • Undergo re-test within three months to check progress

Key advocacy activities:

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

Government response

We have received two responses, from the Department of Social Services and Minister for Social Services, the Hon. Dan Tehan MP since the June 2018 delegation to Canberra. The responses have raised further questions and concerns, which have been articulated in Council's latest response, developed in partnerships with the Logan: City of Choice Leadership Team and local sector experts.

Next steps Council is continuing to track the bill's progress through the legislative process and continuing to advocate for changes that it believes will help the trial better achieve its aims.