UnitingCare Australia takes this opportunity to comment on provisions of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Drug Testing Trial) Bill 2018.
We would like to reiterate the concerns around the establishment of a drug testing trial which we raised in our Submission to the Senate Committee Inquiry on the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform) Bill 2017. While we were pleased that the drug testing trial was removed from that original Bill, we are disappointed that the initiative has been reintroduced under a separate Bill with little consideration of the feedback provided by ourselves and others in the community service and health sector.
UnitingCare Australia is the national office representing the community services of the Uniting Church in Australia. Our services operate nationally across more than 1,300 sites in metropolitan, rural and remote Australia, delivering services to people across the life course. The views reflected in this submission are informed by the expertise from within the Uniting Church’s community services network, particularly those focused on alcohol and other drug treatment and prevention.
Under the proposed legislation new recipients of Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance (other) will be randomly selected to undertake a drug test in three locations across the country. Anyone who tests positive will be subject to income management for 24 months and be subject to further drug testing. If the recipient fails subsequent drug tests they will be referred to a Department of Human Services’ contracted medical professional for assessment. If that professional recommends treatment, the recipient will be required to complete the recommended treatment activities designed to address their substance abuse as part of their Employment Pathway Plan. Where treatment is not immediately available, recipients will be required to be on a waiting list to satisfy part of their mutual obligation requirements.