Today’s columnist, Jack Scott: Plans could harm families

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The government has launched a review into the benefits and services that people who have a drug and alcohol dependency receive.

It will also review the benefits and services that obese people receive.

At Home-Start, we want all parents to have the support they need to give their children the best possible start in life. Every year, more than 100 trained volunteers help over 800 families and children to overcome the barriers they face.

We work with many parents who have an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

In almost all cases, parents want to control their addiction and build decent family homes.

From our experience, we know that very few people can just completely stop an addiction. We also know that lecturing and stigmatising parents and families makes recovery much less likely.

Parents need support, encouragement and help. It isn’t clear why the government has chosen this particular group of people.

If stopping benefits and services is such a good way to change behaviour, why is the government not applying it to people with a gambling addiction? Or people who smoke?

Nobody is born a drug or alcohol addict. Many parents turn to alcohol or drugs because of very difficult issues they have experienced, most often concerning abuse or trauma.

This is bad enough. Their addiction makes the situation even worse. Taking away families’ ability to eat, heat their homes or live a stable life adds even further misery to a very vulnerable group of families and children.

Our worry is that creating family crises in this way will end up costing the government much more money than it might save. Many of the situations that create an addiction are very complex.

But we can all agree that the children of people with addictions aren’t responsible for their situation.

So it’s entirely wrong that children are made to suffer because of their parents’ problems.

We need proper services that help people to recover and rebuild. Removing families’ ability to feed themselves or pay their bills won’t stop addiction and will push them away from the services they need, towards crises, loansharks and potentially crime.

We are telling the government’s review about the problems this change could create for children and families who need help. I hope other people who feel the same way do so too.

* Jack Scott, manager of Homestart, Sheffield