14 Apr 2009

A Few Thoughts on Legislating on Alcoholism

Labour spin continues in the sidelines to the email scandal.

This current initiative, while not as detrimental to freedom as the enforced community service for adolescents, is illogical and impractical. The assertion that Labour "are going to look at the arrangements for alcoholics on benefits, just as [we] did for problem drug users, so that people get the help they need to get sober" is missing fundamental information about both drug users and alcoholics.

Measuring the "treatment" of heroin addicts is quantifiable. They go to the doctors once a week and get methadone. This replaces the heroin in their system and they are "ticked off". I they fail to collect methadone then it is assumed they are back on heroin (unless they are in work of course) and the benefits are ceased.

What exactly are the government prescribing to subsidise the addiction of alcohol?

They also fail to consider that alcohol is readily and cheaply available. All the time, thanks to the 24 hour drinking scheme initiative.

How can they tell if someone is off alcohol if there are not regular visits to a professional?

Is there even a measurable form of alcoholism? I know plenty of people who may drink every day, and plenty of people who consume so much alcohol in short periods they should be pickled.

This is without touching on the expense, bureaucracy and time investment that it will weight the NHS down with even further. Let alone valid points made by Theresa May and Steve Webb.

Looking at the story in more detail also reveals that it will be the Job centres that will refer the alcoholics for treatment. Ironically at the same time the Scotsman reports that alcoholics have the right to claim disability benefits such as Incapacity. So they wont be going to the job centre anyway will they?

Although alcoholism is cited as the main reason for claiming benefits, alcoholics getting disability benefits are also likely to have other health problems, such as mental health issues, which prevent them working.

So would being an alcoholic with mental health problems negate the removal of benefits if they refuse treatment? And which is the greater problem anyway? Will this extend to removing benefits of people with serious mental heath impairments if they refuse to attend counselling?

As an aside, the constant degradation of smokers aggravates me. I used to manage wine merchants. It always confused me that smokers were penalised more heavily than drinkers, and as staff, I would be penalised to the tune of £5000 if I sold cigs to an underage smoker. But if I sold a bottle of whisky to someone under 18 and they got in a car and killed someone I would only be fined £2000. This seems illogical. The argument, of course, is that smoking causes long term irreversible damage. Although, getting killed in a car accident is not exactly reparable!

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