CASHBANFOR DOLE TEENS
Card limits buying to essentials
TEENAGE welfare recipients will have their income quarantined for essentials under a plan to issue a new debit card that bans spending on illicit drugs, booze, pornography and cigarettes to under-18s.
The Turnbull Government is examining options to extend income management to teenagers on the dole after years of testing the policy in indigenous communities.
The Healthy Welfare Card can restrict up to 80 per cent of under-18s’ Youth Allowance for life’s essentials — housing costs, food and bills.
The cashless welfare card operates similar to any other credit card but cannot be used to buy cigarettes, pornography, alcohol or get cash for illicit drugs.
Approximately 140,000 Australian teenagers receive some form of welfare.
The largest group is around 76,000 unemployed people aged 16-20, receiving Youth Allowance.
There are also an estimated 21,000 under-20s on the Disability Support Pension and 10,000 single parents who rely on parenting payments.
Human Services Minister Alan Tudge has long championed income management to stop welfare cash being used to buy booze and drugs, fuelling family violence — the cost of which is a huge drain on the economy.
Mr Tudge refused to be drawn on the government’s plans to roll out the cashless welfare card to under-18s, confirming only the current arrangements.
“We have made no decisions about any possible extension of the cashless welfare card beyond the trial sites in Ceduna and East Kim-
berly,’’ Mr Tudge told the Sunday Herald Sun.
But Coalition MPs are understood to be enthusiastic about the idea, and Mr Tudge remains a passionate advocate for the extension of the scheme.
In August 2015, he wrote: “The logic is inescapable. We have places where welfare is a major part of the local economy and the welfare dollar is fuelling gambling, alcohol and drug abuse.”
Mr Tudge has pushed for an expansion of the scheme describing it in speeches as allowing recipients to “get their lives back on track”.
“It’s not just that individuals are wasting welfare payments, but welfare abuse is destroying the lives of women and children.”
Until now the reforms have proven expensive and complicated to manage, with the government spending more than $1 billion on the income management trials.
The federal Budget already includes funding for an extension of income management until 2017, including a new debit card that provides a cheaper method of ringfencing benefits cash.
Introduced a decade ago under the Howard government’s “emergency response” in the Northern Territory, the technique was at first used only in indigenous communities there.