A cashless welfare card designed to stop welfare recipients from spending their taxpayer-funded income on drugs, gambling and alcohol will be trialled in some states by the end of the year.
The card, a brainchild of mining magnate Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest, aims to combat rising levels of domestic violence against women and children, and to prevent parents from spending their welfare income on ‘vices’ instead of food and clothes for their children. The trial locations will be decided through community consultation.
“Firstly, [ideal locations would be] where there is high welfare dependence and high harm caused by welfare-fuelled alcohol and drug abuse”, said Parliamentary secretary Alan Tudge. “Secondly, where there’s some community leadership which is at least open to trialling the card in their community.”
The biggest problem facing disadvantaged communities is alcohol abuse. Heavy drinking is a factor in half of all reported child abuse and domestic violence cases.
The welfare card would operate as a normal bank debit card, working similarly to VISA, Mastercard and EFTPOS. Cardholders will not be able to purchase alcohol in pubs, clubs or liquor outlets or on gambling.
“You could use it for anything, you could use it anywhere – but you simply could not purchase alcohol or gamble with it,” said Mr Alan Tudge.
“The objective is to address the enormous social harm of welfare-fuelled drug and alcohol use,” he continued. “I think this reform could absolutely change the lives of some women and children. This could have a dramatic impact on the community in terms of rates of violence and rates of assaults, particularly against women.”
Social Services Minister Scott Morrison says there are no plans to use the ‘Healthy Welfare Card’ in the wider community, but has confirmed the government will commence trials in both indigenous and non-indigenous disadvantaged communities later this year.
Mr Morrison said, “It’s there as a key tool to target particular areas of disadvantage and to see whether it can make the big difference that we believe and hope that it can.”
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When I first read about the ‘Healthy Welfare Card’, my immediate reaction was that, if effectively managed, it could be good idea. At the same time, I think it is a little scary that a system such as this is being introduced and trialled in our community, specifically for the purpose of reducing the likelihood of alcoholism, domestic violence and child abuse. I mean, is a card really going to solve those problems?
Wouldn’t some sort of compulsory education and training system be more beneficial to disadvantaged people in the long run? Wouldn’t such a system also create jobs and also make people on welfare more attractive to employers? Wouldn’t people who are desperate enough for drink and drugs then turn to illegal methods in order to satisfy these needs?
Maybe I’m just being sceptical. To be honest, I’m not quite sure what I think about this new welfare payment system. But then I thought: “why not see what some of our Facebook friends are saying about this new cashless welfare card?” Here are some responses:
Please note: some comments have been slightly edited for readability.
Sally-anne Byrne says: “I think that if a welfare recipient has been charged with drug or alcohol offences, then it should be mandatory.”
Marian Cross says: “What an awesome idea. That way the taxpayers will only have to help the truly needy and not the addicts of unnecessary [items such as] drugs, alcohol, smokes and gambling. For those addictions they will have to find some other means, preferably not illegal.”
Fred Petersen says: “Does this include aged pensioners and disability pensioners? You know they already suffer enough hardship and an occasional drink never hurt anyone.”
Gina Winning says: “Demeaning to those already demeaned by unfortunate job loss, or other circumstances forcing them to have to collect welfare. It’s easy to write people off as collecting free money, but lots have worked, paid taxes and [still] been unfortunate to have something go wrong [of which] they have no control. Meanwhile, rich companies and shareholders [employ] creative accounting to ensure they pay very little tax, and no-one blinks an eye. The government push bad attitudes as [it] suits them so society can have a scapegoat on which to blame their poor management, and we keep accepting it. Could be anyone of us to lose our job next. Is this how you want to be treated?”
Colleen Mesiti says: “After they get control of your welfare, they will go after the working class tax paying people. They want control of how you spend your money too.”
Valerie Haigh says: “Sounds good in theory – I like the idea. The thing that frightens me is the fact that our crime rate will most likely sky rocket due to desperate people needing their drug or alcohol fix. Not saying everyone on welfare is in that category. I know a few people who have tried for work but there are few jobs available in country areas even if you are trained.”
Seems to be quite a polarising subject. What’s your opinion? Do you think a cashless welfare card is a good idea? Do you feel that a system such as this may benefit some but not others?