"77,000 UK Addicts" Live Off Disability

By McCarton Ackerman 07/31/12

Thousands whose addictions leave them unable to work live off state subsidies—highly controversial in the current economic climate. 

When drinking is a full-time job. Photo via

More than 77,000 British drug and alcohol addicts are reportedly receiving disability benefits under the country's historically generous welfare provisions, because their addictions have left them unable to work. New figures show that 34,410 people get Incapacity Benefit due to substance problems, with another 21,890 on Employment Support Allowance—the new form of the same benefit. Still another 21,350 get Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which is a core payment of roughly $120 per week, plus a "mobility payment" of up to $85. And a UK government research paper claims that this is a conservative estimate: “These figures are likely to undercount the total numbers of problematic drug users and alcohol misusers in the benefit system, as people with another medical condition or disability with drug use or alcohol misuse as a secondary factor will not be included.” The total number of people claiming DLA in the UK is 3.2 million, up from 1.1 million in 1992. The report is political dynamite in the context of the austerity measures taken by the UK since 2010, which cut billions from the government's budget and slashed public services. A controversial law was implemented this spring requiring all addicts on disability to get treatment, or risk losing their unemployment pay. It all adds poignancy to Danny Boyle's salute to the welfare state during Friday's Olympic opening ceremony.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.