Will you lose your benefits if you refuse addiction treatment?

The UK has a complicated benefits system which can be difficult to navigate, and you may need professional advice to find out what benefits you’re eligible for. Different benefits can be applicable depending on age, income, disability status, unemployment and more.

Both Labour and The Conservatives have previously announced plans to cut access to certain benefits for people struggling with drug addiction or alcohol addiction if they refuse treatment, but these plans were never implemented.

However, leaving addiction untreated can compromise your ability to comply with what is expected of you to retain access to certain benefits and hinder your ability to look for work and keep a job.

Detrimental effects of addiction on benefits and employment


Only about one in five people entering addiction treatment are employed, but completing treatment makes finding employment more likely. An independent review on employment and addiction by advisor and physician Dame Carol Black made multiple recommendations to The Government in 2016. These included training staff to recognise addiction in claimants so they could offer extra assistance and new services like Individual Placement and Support (IPS) and peer mentoring. IPS integrated employment into addiction treatment, helped programme members with job searches, approached prospective employers with the programme member’s needs in mind and gave programme members additional support in finding a job.


Peer mentors were trialled in Jobcentres in 2023, and IPS was trialled in 2018-2021. Both of these trials recognised that employment significantly boosts your odds of beating addiction and that you may need extra help, and gave ways to overcome the barriers to employment that come with treating addiction and looking for work. Early results of the IPS trial reported improved confidence from participants in their ability to look for work. Both of these trials were a more evidence-based and humane approach than threats to stop benefits if addiction treatment wasn’t complied with.

Difficulty complying


Some benefits, such as Job-Seekers Allowance or Universal Credit, operate on a sanction system. This means if you don’t fulfil certain obligations your benefits can be stopped for a set period. These sanctions are usually connected to work-related activities, such as being on time for appointments with work coaches, applying for suitable jobs or attending training courses.


Addiction negatively impacts your ability to comply with these obligations. Keeping appointments, being on time and looking for work become significantly harder, which can result in sanctions and loss of payment.

Exploring treatment options


Applying for jobs and addiction recovery are not mutually exclusive – in fact, they work really well together. When addiction treatment includes employment as part of the recovery process, it increases the likelihood that you will stay sober. Financial stability, social benefits and structure are all protective against relapse. There are multiple treatment options you can consider.




Individual therapy comes in many forms and can help you address unhelpful thought patterns and behaviours, cope with strong emotions, examine the root causes of your addiction and deal with unresolved trauma. 


Medication-Assisted Treatment


Medication-assisted treatment is usually offered as part of a broader treatment plan with other interventions. It is used to treat opioid addiction and can also be known as Opioid Replacement Therapy. 

This treatment uses longer-lasting opioids like methadone or buprenorphine to stabilise your opioid intake so you can slowly reduce it under managed conditions.


Support groups


Group therapy or support groups are often offered as part of your plan in inpatient rehab, but it can also be one of the easiest to access forms of treatment due to its low cost. In group therapy, the cost of the therapist is spread amongst the people in the group, while many support groups will be free.

Groups can help you gain a new perspective on your addiction and seek advice, support and companionship from people who understand your struggles and can keep you accountable.


Residential programmes


Residential addiction rehab can get you away from the environment your addiction is situated in and is the best intervention for severe addiction. Rehab is a breathing space for you to detox safely and get a handle on your addiction symptoms.

Stigma and barriers


It’s an unfortunate and ugly truth that both people struggling with addiction and benefits claimants are stigmatised. There are many barriers to accessing treatment, and you may struggle with the logistics of claiming benefits while in the grip of addiction. The intersection of these two issues is complex, and you may need professional guidance from a charity specialising in addiction, a charity that offers benefits advice, or both. 

Seeking help for addiction is the right thing to do, and no one should be ashamed to do so or to ask for help when it’s needed. Everyone who needs it deserves comprehensive care to overcome their addiction and UKAT is here to provide that. Contact us today to see how we can help you overcome addiction.