Poverty Damages our Children’s Chances in Life. So what about the Benefits Cap?

Karen Tyrell
Find local support

Drug and alcohol use is often wrapped up in a wide range of complex and entrenched needs. The people we work with are frequently also dealing with housing problems, poor physical or mental health, contact with the criminal justice system and the huge emotional toll that drug and alcohol misuse takes on families, friends and children.

This week, the government published a paper about Workless Families. It contains a range of new measures for local and national government to monitor and improve the lives of children who grow up in workless households. The reason for this new focus is that the evidence shows that these children fare worse across a range of measures. The paper is well written and evidence based. Here at Addaction, we are really pleased to see an acknowledgement of the Dame Carol Black review with many of the suggestions that came from services being taken up by government. As a particularly good example, ‘a network of peer mentors’ will be set up to support drug and alcohol users back into employment. All good, you may think.

However, it does seem curious that this new focus on reducing poverty for families comes at a time when the benefits cap is really beginning to bite for our clients. You may have seen a recent episode of Panorama which illustrated this point. It showed that since the benefits cap was introduced only 5% of adults affected have moved into work. The other 95% are simply poorer and that of course means that their children are much poorer too. The government has clearly understood that poverty hampers life chances – yet, that’s precisely what the benefits cap is doing.

In the last 10 days PHE has also released updated figures about alcohol dependency, which again starkly illustrate the risks that some of the most disadvantaged young people in the country face. We now know that around 220,000 children live with an alcohol-dependent parent and a further 162,000 children live with an opiate-dependent parent. Those children and their parents desperately need the support and care of services like Addaction, and also support from people who have had similar life experiences to their own. We need to see each person as a whole person, not just a bundle of complex needs. People are dying because services are complicated and difficult to join up. We still see time and again that mental health and drug and alcohol services don’t connect properly to provide a seamless service. Disconnected commissioning structures and fragmented, shrinking budgets do little to help.

However, once someone finds their way to a service like Addaction, people can and do thrive. Being surrounded by both professionals and people with lived experience who are supportive, compassionate and caring can save lives. And you can come and see that for yourself at the many local service showcases happening this year across the country to celebrate our 50th anniversary – just keep an eye on your nearest service’s Facebook page to hear more.

One of our volunteers from Scotland has even gone so far as to write a song, ‘Mollie‘, which carries this message: that recovery blossoms in our spaces and the stories of people’s successes are just as powerful and moving as the painful experiences of their recent past. Take a listen, and if you need to talk to someone, pop in anytime.