NXT secures much needed boost for drug rehabilitation programs

NXT secures much needed boost for drug rehabilitation programs

Pending a final vote in the Senate, the Nick Xenophon Team has secured an extra $40 million for drug addiction services, including specialist methamphetamine rehabilitation facilities in South Australia, as part of the Government’s welfare reform package.

NXT has also negotiated safeguards for the Government’s proposed demerit points system for recipients who do not meet their jobseeker obligations.

“The Nick Xenophon Team holds the view that jobseekers need to be job-ready but not penalised for conditions they cannot get help to address,” said Rebekha Sharkie, NXT’s spokesperson for social services.

“We owe it to the Australian taxpayer to make sure every person receiving a jobseeker payment is meaningfully looking for work or addressing barriers to seeking work. However, we also need to ensure supports are there for people with addictions to get help. Our work with the Government on this Bill will achieve this."

The safeguards that NXT has negotiated include:

  • Exemptions to the changes to intent-to-claim provisions for people in vulnerable circumstances, such as people who are: Victims of domestic violence; victims of homelessness; hospitalised or suffering from temporary incapacity; recently released from prison or psychiatric confinement; in the process of separation or divorce; parent(s) of a newborn; recently bereaved; recent refugees or humanitarian migrants; living in remote areas; and victims or natural disaster or emergency.
  • An additional demerit point prior to suspension to give Centrelink recipients ‘a final chance’ to uphold their Centrelink obligations related to job searches, with rehabilitation being a potential pathway for people with addiction.
  • Any decision about cancelling payments can only be made by Centrelink, not jobactive providers.
  • Recipients will still maintain timely appeal rights.
  • Discretion for exemptions for job search activity requirements will remain for job seekers in remote areas.
  • People aged 55-59 will be able to resume volunteering for 30 hours per fortnight after 12 months of job-search activities.

“This Bill has been six months of negotiations with the Government to get a fairer system for all. The Government’s plan for random drug testing is not in this Bill,” Rebekha said.

“We believe the Government should be spending extra money to help people overcome their addictions, not testing people for drugs – particularly when all the evidence suggests the Government already has the means to identify welfare recipients who have problems with drugs and alcohol.

“South Australia has some of the highest use of methamphetamine in the nation and desperately needs vital support to cutting the waiting list for rehabilitation places.”

The $40 million secured for drug addiction services will be allocated by $20 million for specialist methamphetamine rehabilitation places in South Australia and $20 million to be spent over the next three years to support GPs and other allied health professionals in regional and remote Australia to access professional development and specialist skills in addiction medicine.

This will help address the current shortfall in expertise to help Centrelink recipients address their addiction issues.

“There are only about 100 full-time equivalent addiction specialists in Australia and few GPs, especially doctors in regional and remote areas, that have the knowledge to effectively support Centrelink recipients with addiction issues,” Rebekha said.

“GPs and nurse practitioners are often the first health professional a person with an addiction will talk to about their problem and they are often the most accessible in regional areas so NXT believes helping this frontline health service is incredibly important.”