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House of Lords written question – answered on 12th May 2011.

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Photo of Lord Laird Lord Laird UUP

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many (a) alcoholics, and (b) drug addicts, are in receipt of (1) disability living allowance, and (2) incapacity benefit.

Photo of Lord Freud Lord Freud The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions

This Government recognise that too many people are on benefits as a result of drug and alcohol addiction, often for many years having been failed by the system. As a consequence, they are determined to take tough action to address this issue.

People in receipt of benefits as a result of a drug or alcohol dependency will be expected to work where they can, while those unable to work will be offered every support to overcome their dependency. The Government are currently in the process of reassessing all incapacity benefit claims in order to identify claimants who have the potential to return to work and offer them the necessary support to do so.

The department does not routinely record the information requested in this parliamentary Question on its systems. It did however commission a one-off research report in 2008 to look at precisely this issue in respect of opiate or crack cocaine dependency, and a similar research report in 2010 in respect of alcohol dependency. These reports are publicly available on the Department for Work and Pensions website, and the relevant figures have been reproduced in table 1 below.

It should be noted that drug dependency does not of itself confer entitlement to disability benefits. In the case of incapacity benefit and employment support allowance, this is determined by a person's capability or capacity for employment. For disability living allowance entitlement relies on the care and/or mobility needs arising from a particular condition. Where individuals with a substance dependency are in receipt of such benefits it will be because they have other diagnoses, for example mental illness.

The department does routinely record the numbers of people in receipt of disability benefits who record drug abuse or alcoholism as their main disabling condition. This information is presented in table 2. These figures represent a subset of all claimants with a drug or alcohol dependency, as not all such claimants will have declared this as their main condition.

Table 1: Estimated number of working age claimants who are opiate (eg heroin) or crack cocaine users or dependent drinkers by benefit type in England
Benefit Number of opiate or crack cocaine users in 2006 Number of dependent drinkers in 2008
Incapacity Benefit 87,000 99,200
Disability Living Allowance 25,000 29,400

Source:"Population estimates of problematic drug users in England who access Department for Work and Pensions benefits: A feasibility study, Working Paper No. 46, Hay, G. & Bauld, L. 2008" and Population estimates of alcohol misusers who access DWP benefits, Working Paper No. 94, Hay, G. Bauld, L. 2010"


1. The estimates predate the introduction of ESA.

2. Figures are rounded to the nearest thousand.

3. Dependent drinkers are defined as those with an AUDIT score of 20+. The alcohol use disorders identification test (AUDIT) is a clinical assessment tool designed to identify people who may be dependent drinkers. A diagnosis of dependence is made by a clinician following further tests. Dependent drinkers with an AUDIT score of 20+ are very likely to be experiencing physical and social problems (including, possibly, problems maintaining employment) due to their excessive alcohol consumption or storing up such problems for themselves in the future.

4. Copies of the working papers by Hay and Bauld can be found in the House of Commons Library, and can also be accessed at: and http://research. .

Table 2. Incapacity Benefit/Severe Disablement Allowance (IB/SDA), Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) recipients with Alcoholism and Drug Abuse recorded as the main condition-August 2010
Benefit Total number with Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Number with Alcoholism Number with Drug Abuse
DLA 23,000 n/a n/a
IB/SDA n/a 42,360 37,480
ESA n/a 14,700 9,870

Source: DWP Information Directorate 5 per cent sample and DWP Information Directorate 100 per cent WPLS.


1. DLA figures are rounded to the nearest 100, and have been uprated to be consistent with Work and Pensions Longitudinal Survey (WPLS) data. IB/SDA & ESA figures to the nearest 10. Totals may not sum due to rounding.

2. DLA caseloads give the number of people entitled to DLA and so include people with entitlement where the payment has been suspended, for example if they are in hospital. Disability living allowance can be claimed by people who are both in and out of work.

3. For DLA it is not possible to breakdown drug abuse or alcoholism into separate categories.

4. Incapacity benefit was replaced by employment support allowance (ESA) from October 2008.

5. "n/a" denotes not applicable.

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