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Dr Linda Bauld
Dr Linda Bauld

Press Release - 18 July 2008

Nearly 300,000 illegal drug users in England claim state benefits – according to new research

Nearly 300,000 heroin and crack cocaine users in England are claiming state benefits, researchers at the Universities of Bath and Glasgow have found.

A report published today by the Department of Work & Pensions outlines results from a study conducted by Dr Linda Bauld in the University of Bath’s Department of Social & Policy Sciences and Dr Gordon Hay from the Centre for Drug Misuse in Glasgow.

They found the total number of problematic drug users in England accessing the Government’s main benefits in 2006 was around 270,000 – more than 6 per cent of the total number of working age individuals on benefits.

This compares with 1.1 per cent of the total working age population in England estimated to be problematic drug users – those who use heroin and/or crack cocaine.

The researchers found the proportion was greater for younger age groups, with around 7.4 per cent of claimants under 25 years being problematic drug users.

The breakdown of problematic drug users claiming individual benefits are as follows:

Jobseekers’ Allowance – 66,000 (8.2 per cent) Income Support – 146,000 (8.1 per cent) Incapacity Benefit – 87,000 (4.4 per cent) Disability Living Allowance – 25,000 (1.9 per cent)

The study found that the majority of drug users accessing benefits are male (76 per cent) and that there was regional variation, with the highest prevalence being in London.

Dr Bauld said: “This feasibility study brought together data from different sources to estimate the uptake of some of the main benefits such as Jobseekers Allowance and Incapacity Benefit.

“What the study shows is that there is a higher proportion of drug users amongst benefit recipients than there is in the population overall. This finding raises a number of questions for research and policy that we hope can be examined in future studies."

Estimates were derived for the following benefits; Disability Living Allowance, Incapacity Benefit, Income Support and Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) and a combined ‘main benefits’ group. The analysis was carried out by gender and age group as well as regionally.

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