By Tanveer Ahmed
I work for a mental health team at Bankstown in Sydney’s south-west. Beneath the gritty authenticity of an optimistic, Australian multiculturalism is an underbelly of crime, drugs and welfare dependence.
Amid the backdrop of Arabic signage, Vietnamese vendors spruiking sugar cane juice and Africans crowding in front of hair-braiding stores, my co-workers — highly trained social workers and occupational therapists — drive to homes with boxes of two-minute noodles to dispense to their patients who have spent their benefits on amphetamines and cigarettes.
I regularly sign Centrelink certificates for patients who are unable to look for work due to their drug use. Sometimes I am sceptical and wonder if a tougher love approach might help them regain better function, but it’s easier to accept their wishes and maintain rapport. They are already distrustful with histories of trauma and few social supports.
This is the context that the Federal Government has chosen the Bankstown for its first trial into drug testing welfare recipients.
The plan is to quarantine funds for essentials and refer to medical treatment if there are repeated positive tests.
The Government’s statistics show a 162.5 per cent increase in the 18 months to the end of 2016 in people who are unable to look for work due to illicit drugs.
Condemnation from doctors
The policy initiative has been met with…
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