Social services: cashless welfare card trial 'ineffective'

THE Australian Council of Social Service  (ACOSS) has rejected moves by the Federal Government to introduce trials of a 'cashless' welfare card.

The debit card will be trialled in selected communities later this year to stop people spending taxpayers' money on alcohol, gambling and drugs.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Alan Tudge said the overall aim was to reduce violence, particularly against women.

Background: Welfare payments being spent on white goods

Background: Welfare EFTPOS card to be trialled 

However ACOSS says the trial goes against expert advice, with evidence that similar income management schemes are ineffective and costly.

"ACOSS and more than 30 community organisations, including many leading National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander groups, urged the government not to proceed with the implementation of this recommendation," said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.

"The welfare card is modelled on the Basics Card currently used to manage the income of people in disadvantaged communities and locations around Australia. This scheme of income management has failed to effect long-term changes in behaviour or outcomes, despite the high cost of the policy."

Dr Goldie argues that the Basics Card has only had some limited success with people who have signed up voluntarily.

"We have long held that reform to government welfare programs should be grounded in evidence of what works. If people have chronic alcohol or drug addictions, or children are at risk, they need intensive case management and intervention based on the best professional advice."

Dr Goldie said there is very little information about cost of the trial and how it will be funded.

"There remain many questions about how this scheme would be implemented. For instance, what percentage of funds will be managed by the card; how will communities be selected to participate; will the card be rolled out to entire communities, or just selected individuals; and will trials will be time limited or ongoing?
"There is very little detail beyond a declaration in the media that the government has decided to proceed with this costly scheme, against all advice," Dr Goldie said."