‘Cashless’ Welfare Card Slammed
Tuesday, 29th September 2015 at 5:05 pm
A Federal Government plan to trial a “cashless” welfare card in disadvantaged communities has been slammed as a move towards a “more intrusive and disrespectful welfare system” by community advocates.
A Senate Inquiry is currently being held into the trial of the Healthy Welfare Card – a system recommended by mining magnate and mega-philanthropist Andrew Forrest.
If approved, the welfare card would restrict people’s access to cash by quarantining up to 80 per cent of it, in a bid to prevent welfare recipients buying alcohol, gambling and spending money on drugs.
In a submission to the Senate Inquiry CEO of the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW), Glenys Wilkinson, rejected the idea of a cashless welfare card.
“The AASW believes that the Government, in proposing the Social Security Legislation Amendment … has not considered many important aspects and consequences of the Bill, nor has the evidence been examined adequately,” Wilkinson said.
“The Bill seeks to simultaneously test a number of complex questions about compulsory income management in a short time frame using an untried technology about which the banking community (ABA) has raised serious technical concerns.
“Furthermore, if the trials were to proceed, it is very likely to seriously inconvenience and undermine the autonomy of large numbers of welfare recipients who are in no need of income management. These and other ethical issues have not been explored adequately in the Statement of Compatibility with Human Rights associated with this Bill.
“Finally, the AASW has concerns that there is a real danger that this Bill foreshadows a movement toward a more intrusive and disrespectful welfare system that would be rejected by the majority of Australians as paternalistic.”
Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) CEO, Cassandra Goldie, said there were still many questions that needed to be answered before trials for the welfare card went ahead.
“We are concerned about schemes that are imposed broadly on groups of people according to type of payment or category of circumstance, rather than by reference to a specific individual’s circumstances. Income management schemes of this type misunderstand the relationship between income support and drug and alcohol and other problems and attempt to apply a technological fix to a complex social issue,” Goldie said.
“The stated aim of this Bill is to reduce the amount of income support available to be spent on alcoholic beverages and gambling, to reduce violence and harm and encourage socially responsible behaviour.
"It provides for income management to apply to all people receiving income support payments in trial sites, and specifies that a default 80 per cent of their social security income will be quarantined to a Government nominated account that prevents cash withdrawals, and requires all purchases to be made via EFTPOS or online.
“We are not convinced that the necessary work has been done to ensure there is broad community understanding of the proposed reforms. We are also concerned that there is little publicly available information about the consultation process making it difficult for the Committee to assess the level of community support," she said.
The Senate Committee is due to report its findings from the Inquiry on 12 October 2015.