Older welfare recipients could soon be subject to drug tests and lose access to cash under planned welfare changes.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s call for a national rollout of the cashless debit card will not only affect younger Australians, but also older Australians struggling to find employment in the years before qualifying for the Age Pension. They will also be caught up in the cashless card scheme and the proposed drug tests.
Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) policy director Jacqueline Phillips says the cashless debit card is unnecessary, expensive, stigmatising and impractical.
“It costs thousands per person to administer and many people feel humiliated when they have to pay with the card, especially in small towns,” she said in an AAP report.
“This can compound the sense of shame many people feel about being unemployed when they are doing all they can to find paid work in today’s competitive job market with one job available for every eight people looking.”
Senior federal Labor frontbencher Tony Burke is also concerned that the cashless debit card will make life harder for older Australians because it forces them away from small businesses that might offer cheaper prices than bigger outlets, according to SBS, and Labor has labelled the reintroduction of the bill as “mean and nasty”.
“Let me tell you a really quick local example as to how this cashless debit card creates real problems,” said Mr Burke.
“We already know all the challenges about the money provided through Newstart not being enough for people to be able to make ends meet.
“But the cashless debit card says you can only go to those [stores] who’ve signed up. So what does it mean? It means the Government will be forcing people away from small businesses to buy products at a higher price, to make it harder for people to make ends meet.”
Shadow spokeswoman for families and social services Linda Burney said the rollout would adversely affect the number of people over 55 who received Newstart, pointing out that that number had increased by more than 45 per cent over a five-year period under the Coalition.
“Older Australians experience particular difficulty in re-entering the workforce due to structural barriers and age discrimination,” she said.
Mr Burke said the plan would humiliate those people even further through drug testing.
“Walking into the office, having to urinate into a cup, having pieces of their hair plucked out, having to spit into a jar, and all of this for what?” he said.
“(Mr Morrison) thinks it’s a clever political battle with Labor. It won’t create a job, It humiliates people. It’s not a sensible policy.”
Do you think it’s fair that you would be subjected to a drug test and made part of the cashless debit card scheme?
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