Britain May Cut Welfare Benefits to Drug Addicts, Alcoholics

By Paul Gaita 08/19/15

People classified as obese are also in Prime Minister David Cameron's crosshairs.

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Residents of the United Kingdom who qualify as alcoholics, drug addicts, or obese may have their welfare benefits reduced as part of a cost-cutting measure currently under consideration by the British government.

Prime Minister David Cameron's plan is based on research conducted by Professor Dame Carol Black, an adviser to the Department of Health, into the financial toll on UK taxpayers of having to support individuals suffering from the aforementioned conditions.

Approximate costs vary according to sources, but the Department of Health has estimated that obesity alone requires £27 billion ($42 billion) in support each year, while alcohol addiction support requires £21 billion ($32 billion) annually.

Nearly 90,000 UK residents currently claim welfare benefits for illnesses caused by drug or alcohol addiction, while an additional 1,800 individuals receive around £100 (about US $156) per week for conditions primarily caused by obesity. Under the plan—as devised by Cameron and the Conservative Party, and based on guidelines introduced in 2013—those individuals who do not seek some form of treatment would be denied their benefits.

“Too many people are stuck on sickness benefits because of issues that could be addressed but instead are not,” Cameron said. “It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them to get back to a life of work.”

Critics of the plan contend that Cameron’s decision is motivated by recent criticism over perceived failures in cutting tax avoidance by wealthy residents while also reducing benefits for the poor, as well as an overall concern over welfare policy due to the upcoming May 2016 elections.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.