An update on the Centrelink debt collection process
QCOSS, along with ACOSS welcomes the Senate Inquiry’s report into the flawed robodebt program and calls on government to adopt its 21 recommendations without delay. The report presented by the Senate Inquiry provides irrefutable evidence of the need to stop the robodebt program because of the extensive harm it is continuing to cause. The Senate Inquiry recommendations support the recommendations made by QCOSS and the National COSS Network in our submissions to the inquiry.
We congratulate the Committee on its hard work in uncovering the systemic problems of this poorly designed and unfair system of debt recovery and thank everyone who was involved in putting forward stories and experiences. You can read the full list of recommendations here.
Cashless Debit Card potential for Fraser Coast and Bundaberg
As you may be aware, the Australian Government announced in the 2017-18 budget the expansion of the Cashless Debit Card (CDC) trial to two new sites, with these sites to be determined through community consultation. On 5 July 2017 QCOSS staff met with representatives from the Department of Social Services (DSS) regarding the potential roll out of the Cashless Debit Card trial to the Fraser Coast and Bundaberg communities. The Fraser Coast and Bundaberg communities have been identified as a possible site through the representation of the local federal member Keith Pitt MP.
QCOSS’s initial position on the CDC is as follows:
- QCOSS is not supportive of the implementation of mandatory income management through a cashless debit card.
- While income management may provide some benefits to some individuals/families, it should be on a voluntary basis and should be accompanied as part of a toolkit of support, including wrap-around services. It should also include incentives for participation including clear pathways to employment.
- To decide on possible trial sites, QCOSS calls on the Australian Government to clearly articulate
- Regional need – through alignment of the objectives of the program with data and demographics from the region; and
- Community support – community consultation that will be undertaken to decide on the trial location and further the results of that consultation. Priority in this consultation must be given to people who receive income support and will be directly affected by the changes.
- The program’s primary aim, outlined in the evaluation framework, is to modify drinking, drug taking and gambling behaviour. It is not clear to QCOSS that these are wide-spread issues in the region.
- The higher than average unemployment rates in the region have been identified as one of the drivers for selecting the Fraser Coast and Bundaberg communities as a trial site.
- Employment, however, is not stated as a desired outcome in the evaluation framework of the CDC project.
- Given this, if the region is selected, QCOSS believes incorporating an economic development focus is critical to ensuring that participants have a pathway to employment.
- QCOSS cautions the cashless debit card may further stigmatise welfare recipients in environment where there are limited options.
QCOSS will provide support to the community in Fraser Coast and Bundaberg and keep you updated on progress.
Human Rights Act for Queensland
QCOSS is continuing to lend support to enacting a human rights act for Queensland. Recently I was involved in a forum of incredibly enthusiastic people and organisations wanting to see the state government make good on its commitment to introduce a Human Rights Act in Queensland. I would encourage you to keep this important conversation going and continue pressure to ensure that an Act is introduced during the term of this government. You can find more information here.
Chief Executive Officer
13 July 2017