The Commonwealth Government is intent on extending the geographic areas in which cashless debit cards are compulsory for some welfare recipients, but legislative change is needed to do this. Hence the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017, which has been referred to the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee for consideration. The rationale for issuing certain welfare recipients with cashless debit cards is to restrict their spending on alcohol, gambling and drugs and direct their income to food, clothing, shelter and transport. The Minister’s second reading speech asserts: “The trials have been completed, an evaluation has been conducted, and it’s been shown to work and now there’s an opportunity to expand the cashless debit card to new locations.” The Minister is referring to the evaluation by ORIMA Research in which the authors qualify a number of the positive findings with caveats but, in any case, the evaluation methodology has been critiqued as seriously flawed making even the seemingly positive findings contestable. For example, the interim report refers to positive outcomes for a proportion of the Trial participants as they were able to save more money and spend less on alcohol, but the majority of participants said the scheme had no impact or made their lives worse.

Click here to access the evaluation reports by ORIMA Research and here to read “The Cashless Debit Card evaluation: does it really prove success?” by Janet Hunt, Centre of Aboriginal Economic Policy Analysis, ANU.

Click here to find out about making a submission by Friday, 29th September and to take a stand for legislative change that is evidence-informed.