LONDON (Reuters Life!) - An American charity is offering to pay British drug or alcohol addicts 200 pounds ($320) to be sterilized -- and has already had its first taker.
But the idea has been attacked in the UK as exploiting the vulnerable at their lowest ebb.
Project Prevention, which runs a similar scheme in the U.S. offering adults $300 to use long term or permanent birth control, aims to reduce the number of babies born with drug or alcohol addictions as a result of their parents' habits.
Barbara Harris, who set up the charity after adopting the children of an addict, is offering to pay addicts in London, Glasgow, Bristol, Leicester and Wales who are willing not to have children.
"I get very angry about the damage that drugs do to these children," she told the BBC's Inside Out program. "I'm not forcing people to be sterilized. I offer them a choice of contraception but people want to focus on the extremes."
"The social workers and their like have done their best for years and it's not good enough. I'm offering something different, and paying addicts for being responsible."
The project, funded by donations from the public, has already had its first British client, a 38-year-old heroin addict who had been involved in drugs since he was 12.
"It was something that I had been thinking about for a long time," the man, named only as John, told the BBC.
"I won't be able to support a kid: I can just about manage to support myself."
But British drug and alcohol charity Addaction, which estimates around 1.3 million children under 16 have a parent with a serious drug or drink problem, criticized the idea as exploitative.
"It is an approach to an addict when they're at their lowest possible ebb. It doesn't deal with addicts who are already parents, it doesn't help people recover, and it doesn't offer any kind of positive solution," said Addaction chief executive Simon Antrobus.
"We are also concerned that the cash that is being offered will end up in the hands of dealers, helping to perpetuate a problem that is damaging families and communities up and down the UK."
Writing by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Steve Addison