Stopping benefit payments to drug addicts could plunge children into poverty and tear apart families, a leading Scottish children's charity has warned.
The UK Government proposed stopping benefit payments to addicts as it launched a UK-wide consultation programme as part of a move to create a national drugs strategy.
The government is also trying to save billions of pounds through a radical shake-up of the welfare system.
However, drug and children's charities quickly claimed the coalition's proposals for a "financial benefit sanction" for claimants with drug or alcohol problems are unworkable.
The Aberlour Childcare Trust, which runs an outreach centre in Dundee for families affected by substance abuse, claimed the problems faced by the children of problem drug users would be made worse if benefits were withdrawn.
Head of policy Alex Cole-Hamilton said, "Drug dependency in families is a highly complex issue and will not be resolved with a blanket plan to remove the benefits of those who do not agree to treatment.
"Using the disposable income as a tool to force those who are dependent on drugs into treatment will only serve to impact on the quality of life of the entire family, without any guarantee that it will have the desired effect."
He added, "It may also represent a false economy as it could serve to destabilise already fragile families to the point of break-up which could then lead to far greater cost to the state, particularly if children then have to be accommodated
"The sad reality is that while many parents with dependency issues are perfectly capable of providing a safe and loving environment for their children, there are some who would prioritise the procurement of drugs over the day-to-day needs of their families if benefits were removed."
Benefits' "important role"
Chief executive of charity DrugScope, Martin Barnes, said, "The benefit system can and indeed does have a very important role in terms of advice and support to encourage people both to access treatment and employment.
"But we seriously question both the fairness and the effectiveness of actually using the stick of compulsion — benefit sanctions — to link a requirement to undergo medical treatment with a condition of receipt of benefit."
He said there was "absolutely no evidence" that would work for a "vulnerable and often marginalised group" and added that under principles enshrined in the NHS constitution, "medical intervention should be therapeutic, consensual, confidential."
Mr Barnes said, "I just don't see that's compatible with using the benefits system to require people to undergo a complex form of drug treatment intervention."
Chief executive of drug treatment charity Addaction, Simon Antrobus, said, "The people Addaction help will tell you how coming off drugs is extremely difficult, and how deciding to access treatment took them a very long time.
"Remove financial stability during that time, and you can severely damage someone's chances of beating an addiction."
He added, "More likely, you could increase their chances of turning to crime to find an alternative income."
The plans were put forward in a Home Office consultation on a national drugs strategy.
A Home Office spokesman said, "The government is determined to prevent drug use and strengthen enforcement against supply."
Warning over halting drug addicts' benefits