Benefit cards pilot to be issued to drug and alcohol adicts

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Wetherby MP Alec Shelbrooke has welcomed news of a pilot scheme to issue welfare claimants with drug and alcohol addictions pre-paid benefit cards.

The MP first put forward the idea in a Ten Minute Rule Motion to the House of Commons in December 2012 when he called for “a ban on taxpayer funded benefits being used to purchase non-essential, damaging and dangerous items such as cigarettes and alcohol”.

The MP said a trial will start with a view to the results informing a full scale pilot should the Conservatives win the general election next year.

Mr Shelbrooke said: “Our welfare system provides a safety net for millions of hard-working people who fall on hard times and it is right that a contribution-based welfare system exists in Britain today.

“But the last government’s something for nothing culture left some claimants able to choose a life on benefits over a life in work.

“For most hard-working but low-paid claimants benefits provide additional support but for those with budgeting and addiction problems the system is dragging them further into poverty.

“Following my Welfare Cash Card Bill in December 2012 I’ve carried out extensive research on this policy and I’ve yet to find how allowing claimants with addictions to use their benefits for cigarettes, gambling and alcohol helps them out of poverty.

Veronica King, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Elmet and Rothwell said: “Alec Shelbrooke’s ill conceived plans would vilify some of the most vulnerable in our society.

“Residents of Wetherby - and across Elmet and Rothwell - have told me they share my concerns about this proposal and the unforeseen consequences of such a scheme.

“Labour has no plans to introduce payment cards.”