This week’s program focuses on the Cashless Debit Card that is being trialled in communities in the West Coast of South Australia, around the Ceduna area, and in the communities of Kununurra and Wyndham in Western Australia.
The Federal Government’s Department of Social Services says that the Cashless Card was introduced to reduce the harm caused by “Welfare-fuelled alcohol and drug abuse and gambling” through reducing the amount of cash available to people. 80% of people’s welfare payments are paid into a debit card account (managed by a company called Indue) that doesn’t allow cash withdrawals and cannot be used for alcohol or gambling. People on the Card can only access 20% of their income benefits in the form of cash.
There has been a blanket and mandatory approach to the implementation of the Card – everyone who gets income support has to be on the Card, with the exception of people who receive the Age Pension or Veterans’ Payment.
The Cashless Debit Card is part of Government’s income management strategy and was introduced as a twelve month trial in the Ceduna area in March 2016 and in Western Australia in April 2016.
So far, the Trial has cost $18.9 million – that’s an administration cost of $10,000 per participant in the Trial.
In October 2016, the Federal Government’s Department of Social Services released its Progress Report on the Trial of the Cashless Debit Card … followed by an Interim Evaluation Report in March 2017. For information about the evaluation reports and the trial of the Card, you can visit the Department of Social Services’ website. Additional background information about the trial of the Card can be found on the Anangu Lands Paper Tracker website here.
In March 2017, the Minister for Social Services, Mr Alan Tudge, announced that the trial of the Cashless Debit Card has been “a success” and that the Card will continue to be implemented on an ongoing basis in the two trial sites. This decision was taken even though the final valuation report on the trial is only due out in June 2017.
In previous Paper Tracker radio shows we’ve heard from Minister Tudge, and from community members who’ve been affected by the trial of the Cashless Debit Card. In this show, we chat with a social policy researcher and academic, Eva Cox. Eva is attached to the Jumbunna Indigenous Research Unit at the University of Technology, Sydney.
Note: Since this interview was recorded, the Federal Government’s 2017 Budget has included the following:
- The Cashless Debit Card will be extended to two more sites from 1 September. These sites have not been named but will be sites ‘facing high levels of disadvantage, welfare dependence and social harm caused by alcohol drugs and gambling’.
- Job Seeker recipients who test positive for drugs are to be placed on the Cashless Debit Card
- Income Management to be continued in existing sites for a further two years.