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Should Addicts Who Refuse Drug Rehab Be Able to Get Welfare?

David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK, is kicking up a fuss about handing out welfare checks to people with treatable problems—like drug addiction—while they refuse treatment.  We have the same problem in the U.S. Is it right to cut people off or reduce their welfare benefits when they refuse to do something to help themselves improve the condition that keeps them from working, even when that help is free?

There’s no question in my mind that it’s not right for people who are addicts—or have some other treatable condition that’s keeping them from working—to live off other people who do work, and do take responsibility for being able to support themselves and their family.

Most people, if they’re sick—with an infection, for example—do something to get better as quickly as possible. In the case of an infection, they’d probably go to the doctor and get an antibiotic. However they choose to address it, the point is that they DO address it. They don’t just stay home from work for a month or two hoping something will change.

Obviously, the help you need to overcome drug addiction isn’t as simple as going to the doctor to get an antibiotic. But there may be complexities that I wonder if Cameron is taking into account.

Handling an addiction takes a long time. Many months, in fact. For some addicts, that’s not a problem. They’re more or less on their own and no one is depending on them.

However, taking the time for rehab presents real problems for some addicts. It mean months of not being able to care for your kids, your home, your car, your pets. And maybe months of not being able to care for elderly or infirm parents. And they don’t all have family members or friends who can take over those responsibilities.

Yes, that’s right; a lot of addicts still have those kinds of responsibilities. They’re not all foot-loose and fancy free having a great time getting high.

Serious problems can arise – a lot of people know, or think, that if they go for drug rehab they’re going to lose their kids to social services. And they might never get them back.

So if addicts on welfare are going to be offered help, it has to be real help. All of their responsibilities have to be taken into consideration and real solutions have to be worked out. Which is going to cost a lot more than just putting them through rehab.

Other people on welfare—people who are not on drugs—have similar problems. They get X amount of money from welfare, which covers their basic (rent, utilities and food). If they got a job they would have to pay daycare for their kids. And daycare is so expensive that by the time they paid that, and their rent, food and utilities, plus money to get to and from their job, and possibly clothes they might need, they can literally be in the hole financially. In other words, they can’t actually afford to work.

And if they have special needs children who need more care, it will cost them even more. Sometimes they also have to pay extra at the daycare because they take public transport and can’t pick up the kids when daycare officially ends. The kids staying an extra hour or two can cost a lot of money.

The public transport can add a lot of time, and some money, as well. The daycare could be an hour by bus in one direction, and work an hour in the other. So to get to their 9 to 5 job they have to leave at 6:30 a.m., drop the kids off, then get back on the bus to get to work. After work they’re getting their tired and hungry kids home at 7:30 or 8 at night. After having travelled with them on buses for an hour or more.

Two or three kids costs two or three times as much.

For a single parent, it’s pretty much impossible. And being a single parent doesn’t mean that they irresponsibly divorced their wife or husband. Their spouse could have died.

Add an infirm spouse or parents who need care to that, and you have a life of pure hell. With kids who get no attention, and are probably going to go hungry.

The parent might also want to go to night school, so they can get a better-paying job to make it possible to work.

And some of those people are drug addicts.

There are some services available to help someone in those circumstances, but not enough.

Is Cameron prepared to deal with all those factors?

Are we?

True enough – everyone has to be responsible for their own condition. Sometimes people make some pretty bad choices, but sometimes the circumstances were pretty much out of their control.

Helping them helps everyone. The $ billions being spent on welfare – out of your pocket and mine – could be drastically reduced by programs that get people back on their feet, even when they are drug addicts.

But what are the solutions? How is someone in that position supposed to get addiction help?

Does someone in your life need this kind of help?


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