Cashless welfare study for Adelaide

May 01, 2019

Hundreds of Adelaide residents on cashless welfare cards will be part of an Australian first study into compulsory income management.

Conservative Party leader Cory Bernardi is a great supporter of cashless debit card trials around the country which are designed to curb anti-social behaviour and drug and alcohol abuse by quarantining welfare payments and were first trialled in 2016.

The Advertiser reports, researchers will visit Elizabeth next week to interview welfare recipients about their use of government-issued cards which control their spending.

There are 372 people within the Playford Council area with a BasicsCard, which contains between 50 to 80 per cent of their welfare payments.

The cards can only be used at approved retailers for items such as groceries, clothes, hygiene products, whitegoods, furniture and fuel.

They cannot be used to buy alcohol, tobacco, home-brew kits or pornography.

Western Australia's sprawling Goldfields is one of the largest trial sites with about 3,600 card holders and in Laverton, a town of 400 in the north of the region, anecdotal evidence among locals has pointed to a positive impact on the community.

"There's not so much access to hard cash, so they've been able to spend more money on clothes, food into the household," chief executive of the Pakaanu Aboriginal Corporation, Marty Sealander, said.

"Individuals have had to think about their budgeting and what they spend their money on."

A recent University of Adelaide report, commissioned by the Department of Social Services, interviewed 66 Goldfields 'stakeholders' and 64 cardholders in the early stages of the trial.

It found "levels of substance misuse were reported by many respondents to have reduced, and alcohol-related, anti-social behaviour and crime had also decreased".

The cards were introduced by the Howard Government in 2007 as part of its emergency response to indigenous issues in the Northern Territory. There are now 25,270 cards nationally.

Monash University Associate Professor Philip Mendes said the latest research was the first independent evaluation of the cards. “We want to know how people feel about being on the card, whether it is helping them,” he said.

As far back as February 2017, Senator Bernardi voiced his support for the scheme.

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