Alcoholics costing county millions

MORE than 200 Suffolk alcoholics are today claiming benefits totalling millions of pounds a year because they are unable to work.In a sobering snapshot of today's drinking culture it is estimated claims for people who can not work due to their booze addiction could total as much as £4million a year in allowances.

By Colin Adwent

MORE than 200 Suffolk alcoholics are today claiming benefits totalling millions of pounds a year because they are unable to work.

In a sobering snapshot of today's drinking culture it is estimated claims for people who can not work due to their booze addiction could total as much as £4million a year in allowances.

The number of alcohol-dependant claimants was revealed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after a request under the Freedom of Information Act by The Evening Star.


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It provides further proof of the impact alcohol has on the county after the Star reported in March that one in seven people in Ipswich are harming themselves by drinking too much booze.

Experts, in a study collated by the borough council, also said there were 2,389 alcoholics in the town and 15,359 regular drinkers whose habit is considered harmful or hazardous to their health.

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Although the DWP did not supply the exact number of claimants whose primary reason for not working is alcoholism, the statistics indicate it is in the region of 220.

It is possible for people out of work to claim up to £20,000 a year in government handouts such as incapacity benefit, severe disablement allowance, housing support and child-related benefits.

Around 70 of the alcoholics currently being supported by the state live in Ipswich, while about 40 are split equally between the Suffolk Coastal and Mid Suffolk areas.

The remainder are divided between approximately 40 claimants in the St Edmundsbury area, 50 in Waveney and ten each in Babergh and Forest Heath.

Simon Aalders, co-ordinator of Suffolk Drug and Alcohol Action Team, said the figures were indicative of the booze-related problems facing modern-day society.

Mr Aalders also revealed that a significant number of the 225 youths aged 17 or under who were treated for substance misuse in Suffolk over the past year, suffered from alcohol issues.

Mr Aalders said: “The scope of the problem in Suffolk is fairly typical of any similar urban or rural area, but what the figures do show is that long-term alcohol misuse is a serious issue for the community.

“When someone is addicted it takes over their lives. For a lot of these there will be families and friends affected by a person's alcohol problems.

“The age of people presenting (symptoms) to doctors is getting younger. There's nothing to suggest to us that changing at the moment.

“One of the issues we have is when does drinking become harmful? When is someone drinking a little more than they should or a lot more than they should?

“What we can do is continue to encourage people to think about their own behaviour and how drink affects others. What we are doing with our partners is to make sure services are available and people have got access to them.”

N Has alcohol blighted your life? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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