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The Federal Government has announced a trial of drug testing for recipients of government benefits in Logan. Here are the facts as we understand them:

  • It will start in January 2018
  • It will be for new recipients of Newstart and Youth Allowance
  • People who test positive will go on income management
  • People who fail a second test will be referred to a medical professional

YFS CEO Cath Bartolo said drug and alcohol use among jobseekers was a complex issue.

“Drug and alcohol use is rarely the only reason a person is not working. In many cases, drug and alcohol problems are symptoms of an underlying issue.”

“We need to work holistically with people who are dealing with multiple barriers to work.”

“In Logan we have a number of really great initiatives helping people who are disadvantaged in the employment marketplace get real skills and meaningful jobs.”

“Programs like Transition to Work, Transition to Success, Skilling Queenslanders for Work, Empowering Youth, ParentsNext, Sticking Together and local social enterprises are achieving great results with vulnerable jobseekers, as are initiatives by Logan City Council and the Department of Education and Training.”

Ms Bartolo said statistics indicate these approaches are working.

“Youth unemployment in Logan-Beaudesert dropped from 17.1% to 12.3% between November 2015 and March 2017. Overall unemployment in Logan City has dropped to 5.6% over the past 12 months so it’s on par with Brisbane and lower than the Queensland rate.”

Ms Bartolo said it was still very difficult for vulnerable young people to get work without significant support.

“Rather than spending money on expensive drug trials, I’d love to see more investment in employment opportunities for young people and supportive approaches for young people and their employers to reduce the harm caused by problematic drug use,” she said.

YFS has initiated a project, called Logan Youth at Work, to come up with strategies to reduce the impact of drug and alcohol use on young people’s employment prospects.

“We’re starting with consultation with young jobseekers, in conjunction with yourtown, headspace and Substation33, and a survey of people working in employment services,” Ms Bartolo said.

“We started this Local Drug Action Team project well before the drug testing trial was announced.”

Ms Bartolo said YFS welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of extra investment in drug treatment.

“There are currently long waits for people who want residential rehabilitation services. We look forward to seeing the details of these new services.”

“There will need to be very significant investment to meet the increased demand likely to be generated by the drug testing trial,” she said.

YFS has partnered with the Mater Health Service to offer case management for young people with drug and alcohol problems through a program called SHIFT.

SHIFT senior worker Michael Carter said interventions to help people reduce harm from drug and alcohol use were most successful when the client sough help because they were ready to change, rather than having change forced upon them.

Mr Carter said SHIFT worked with clients on all the inter-related issues in their lives to make sure they could sustain improvements in their drug and alcohol use.

“Most of all, we need people to have something positive to do to replace drug use. We find helping young people into work or training that they enjoy is really helpful for motivating them to reduce problematic drug use.”

Mr Carter recounted the story of a 17 year old client who came to SHIFT via the headspace mental health service.

“We helped him reduce his drug use while he waited to get into residential treatment. We also worked with his family to help them help him – they were well-intentioned but just didn’t know how to support him in a positive way.”

“Once he had competed treatment he was really keen to get a trade, so we linked him with the Transition to Work program at yourtown. With their help he moved into work, while we continued to support him to maintain his recovery from his drug problem.”

“He had a minor relapse recently, which is very common, but he had learned the skills to get back on track and is now doing well again,” Mr Carter said.

For more information about the drug trial, there’s a fact sheet here

The ADF website has good information about drug and alcohol issues.