Media release 21 September 2017
Queensland Council of Social Service does not support the introduction of the mandatory Cashless Debit Card announced by the Australian Government today.
The Cashless Debit Card is intended to reduce the consumption of alcohol, drugs and gambling and the associated adverse effects on the community by quarantining 80 per cent of a person’s welfare on a card so it cannot be used to purchase alcohol or drugs, or be used for gambling.
Under the plan announced today it will be introduced to the federal electorate of Hinkler (Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Childers) in January 2018 and mandatory for all income support recipients aged under 35 years.
“It is fundamentally flawed thinking to believe that a complex social issue such as alcohol, drug and gambling problems in a community can be solved through changes to the welfare system,” said Mr Mark Henley, QCOSS CEO.
“If the government is serious about tackling social issues then it make any participation in income management voluntary, and supported by a suite of relevant, adequately funded, holistic services.
“It is also essential that any approach incorporates an economic development focus ensuring people have a pathway to employment.
“Current evaluation of the mandatory cashless debit card trial sites in other states shows no conclusive evidence that it works for the stated intent.
“There is also a lack of evidence of a causal link between people receiving income support and those with alcohol, drug and gambling problems.
“This approach further demonises all welfare recipients regardless of their drinking, drug taking or gambling behaviour. It is part of a suite of reforms currently being pursued by the Australian Government to fundamentally change the fabric of Australia’s social safety net.
QCOSS calls on the Australian Government to:
- Explore alternative options, to be developed, tested and evaluated to identify the most effective response to these social issues.
- Seek expert clinical advice regarding the scientific understanding of substance use and addictive disorders, in the context of wider community socio-economic problems.
- Work with all levels of government to develop a strategy for addressing alcohol, drug and gambling problems in target communities.
- Adopt a place-based, citizen-led, strengths-based approach to address the effects of alcohol, drug and gambling problems, that ensures people impacted by the Card are involved in decision-making.
For more than 50 years QCOSS has worked throughout Queensland to eliminate poverty and inequality.
QCOSS is an independent non-government organisation representing close to 600 organisations and individuals throughout Queensland.