Cash­less wel­fare cards: ef­fec­tive or pun­ish­ment?

Dubbo Photo News - - News Extra - By LY­DIA PEDRANA

Other high­lights will in­clude sport ac­tiv­i­ties, a rep­tile show, fam­ily por­traits, free rides, dads and kids’ hair work­shops, and more.

It is a free fam­ily event. The first 500 chil­dren to at­tend will re­ceive a free sports ball. OPIN­IONS are di­vided over the suc­cess of the con­tro­ver­sial cash­less wel­fare cards which are be­ing tri­alled by around 15,000 peo­ple in parts of South Aus­tralia, Queens­land and Western Aus­tralia – and which could be in­tro­duced here in the fu­ture.

The card quar­an­tines 80 per cent of pay­ments for those on the New­start un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fit and Youth Al­lowance pre­vent­ing them from with­draw­ing cash, and pur­chas­ing al­co­hol, drugs and gam­bling.

Re­cip­i­ents re­ceive the re­main­ing 20 per cent of wel­fare pay­ment into their usual bank ac­count.

Sta­tis­tics show that Queens­land’s Bund­aberg and Her­vey Bay, where the cards are be­ing tri­alled, have seen a drop in the youth un­em­ploy­ment rate from 28 per cent in May 2018 to 18.1 per cent in May 2019.

An in­de­pen­dent review into the trial at Ce­duna and East Kim­ber­ley in South Aus­tralia re­ported that the trial had been ef­fec­tive in re­duc­ing al­co­hol con­sump­tion, gam­bling and the use of il­licit drugs.

Ear­lier this month Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son hinted at a na­tional roll­out of the card, but not all are con­vinced a cash­less wel­fare card is the best way for­ward.

Jimmy For­rest, an Abo­rig­i­nal Fam­ily Health worker at Dubbo Neigh­bour­hood Cen­tre, be­lieves a na­tional roll­out of the card would only ex­ac­er­bate ex­ist­ing so­cial is­sues within com­mu­ni­ties.

“It’s tak­ing away their (card users) in­de­pen­dence and all it’s go­ing to do is put more crime on the street and peo­ple will find ways around it any­way,” Mr For­rest told Dubbo Photo

“If they want it (drugs, gam­bling, al­co­hol) enough, they’ll soon find a way to get it and what a lot of them will do is sell their goods or food just to get the money to buy drugs.”

Mean­while, Mem­ber for Parkes Mark Coul­ton said the ini­tia­tive was not in­tended as a “pun­ish­ment”.

“Rather, it’s an ef­fec­tive way of sup­port­ing Aus­tralians on wel­fare to have more con­trol of their lives, and en­sure they are able to put the needs of their chil­dren and fam­ily first,” Mr Coul­ton said.

“The trial is test­ing whether re­duc­ing the amount of cash avail­able in a com­mu­nity will re­duce the over­all harm caused by wel­fare-fu­elled al­co­hol, gam­bling and drug mis­use.

“At the same time, it en­cour­ages per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity and fi­nan­cial man­age­ment.”

Given card-users can­not with­draw cash and only spend 80 per cent of their wel­fare pay­ments in cer­tain stores, Mr For­rest be­lieves this will pre­vent peo­ple who are strug­gling with ad­dic­tion prob­lems from pay­ing for re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

“They were say­ing that the cash­less card is there to help peo­ple, but as far as I‘m con­cerned, it’s not go­ing to help, es­pe­cially peo­ple who want to get into re­hab and try to get off the drugs and that, be­cause they need cash to go to the re­habs and the card is not de­signed to help get them into re­hab,” Mr For­rest said.

“The govern­ment should be spend­ing more money on re­hab cen­tres and that sort of stuff in the com­mu­ni­ties, and in­stead of mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to get help, they need to make it eas­ier.”

The Govern­ment is cur­rently fo­cused on pass­ing leg­is­la­tion to roll out the card in Cape York and across the North­ern Ter­ri­tory with back­ing from One Na­tion and in­de­pen­dent Senator Jac­qui Lam­bie.

PHOTO: DUBBO PHOTO NEWS

Dubbo Abo­rig­i­nal Fam­ily Health worker, Jimmy For­rest.

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