I was shocked to read that £435 million a year is paid out to people with alcohol or drug problems in welfare benefits. Mostly this is made up of sickness benefit or, as it is now called, Employment and Support Allowance. Some will qualify for Disability Living Allowance and many qualify for help with Housing Benefit and Council Tax relief.
This begs the question – why are we not doing more to tackle the problem of alcohol abuse? Is it time for a resurgence of the temperance movement?
I’m not a teetotaller but some of my research into the Victorian temperance movement has made me think about my own alcohol consumption. I’m probably what the Victorians would have called a moderationalist – someone who thinks my moderate drinking is OK. Sadly, for many people moderation is not a word in their vocabulary. An addict simply can not drink in moderation. Some may want help with their addiction; others reject all offers of help.
There are many organisations doing excellent educational work about the dangers of alcohol and drugs but in the grand scale of things these are small, often localised, initiatives. There seems to be no national awareness of the scale of the problem – and the huge cost to the individual, to their loved ones and to the state.
Where are the modern day equivalents of the temperance campaigners? Where are the modern day Lady Henry Somersets, the Agnes Westons or the Sarah Robinsons?
There are some high profile celebrities who have given up alcohol, often after a stint in rehab. But while the general public applauds their efforts, they see this as a matter of the individual’s choice not a symptom of a national (in fact world-wide) problem.
We may have moved on from Scandal Salvation and Suffrage but perhaps we could all learn a thing or two from The Amazing Women of the Temperance Movement.