CSSA gives evidence to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee about the Cashless Debit Card

Posted 2 November 2017 2:09pm

Use this link to watch a video summary of the evidence CSSA gave to the Senate Inquiry

Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA) is the Catholic Church’s peak national body for social services. Sometimes our work involves advocacy in the public square, other times we are working with MPs and Senators on matters that require deep understanding of complex issues in order to provide evidence based advice on how to ensure Australian society supports the dignity, equality and participation of all people.

Today CSSA staff gave evidence to a Senate Inquiry about the Government’s proposed extension of the Cashless Debit Card Trials.

Our evidence was based on advice from our members who work in the communities where the card has been trialled - East Kimberly WA and Ceduna SA - and, on feedback from consultations undertaken in October 2017, with individuals who live and work in the trial areas.

In short, our research showed there are very mixed views as to the effectiveness of the card, and it has caused significant disruption and frustration amongst already vulnerable communities.

Under the trial, ALL working age income support recipients in the community receive 80% of their welfare payment via a Cashless Debit Card and 20% via their normal bank account, without consideration for differing circumstances and without consent. The Card cannot be used to purchase alcohol or gambling products, or to withdraw cash.

The idea behind the card is if people have less discretionary cash available and are prevented from purchasing alcohol or gambling products, there will be less harm in the community associated with alcohol, drug and gambling abuse.

If the Government goes ahead with its intention to roll out the Cashless Debit Card to other communities, CSSA suggests they will need to make fundamental improvements:

1.           Consultation with the communities affected should be more inclusive and continuous;

2.           The card should be applied only on a voluntary and case-by-case basis, rather than “painting everyone with the same brush”;

3.           Provision needs to be made for appropriate ongoing support services; and

4.           There needs to be a way off the card, where welfare recipients can show they are managing their finances and responsibilities appropriately.

You can read the report tabled by CSSA here.

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