Cashless Welfare Card for Cape York Age Pensioners voted through
THE Cashless Debit Card trial has been extended for another two years until 31 December 2022. You may be forgiven for not knowing the Cashless Debit Card program is a trial as it has been given a trial life much longer than others, with trials beginning in 2016.
Although it is disappointing to see the program extended, it could have been worse. The Australian Government’s initial proposal was to make the Card permanent in the trial regions, but this did not gain support in the Senate, so the Government compromised and settled for a two-year extension.
Age Pensioners are excluded from being forced onto the Card in all the trial regions except in Cape York. In Cape York, the Family Responsibilities Commission (FRC) can refer Age Pensioners to be put onto the Card compulsorily. The FRC does not support the exclusion of Age Pensioners from being put on the Card by compulsion so it is possible every Age Pensioner in the Cape York region could be forced onto the Card.
It is also troubling that the Card received this extension without the release of an evaluation of the program. The Australian Government commissioned the University of Adelaide to evaluate the program, this evaluation was meant to be released by the end of 2019. However, the completed evaluation report is yet to be released by the Government.
On 7 December 2020, the Guardian newspaper published an article in which a researcher from the University of Adelaide team that evaluated the Card found that there is “little consensus” the Card is fulfilling its aims of reducing drug and alcohol abuse. The Guardian reported that the researcher also said “criminal activity had increased” since the introduction of the Card and the researcher believed this was linked to the “financial abuse, fraud and exploitation” of people, particularly older people.
CPSA suspects that not releasing the report that evaluated the Card before forcing legislation through Parliament suggests the findings of this report do not support the continued use of the Card.