Rethinking compulsory income management

  • Rethinking compulsory income management image

We recently made a submission to the government through the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Repeal of Cashless Debit Card and Other Measures) Bill 2022.

We have been strongly advocating against any form of compulsory income management. Not everyone is in favour of abolishing the Cashless Debit Card, but when we looked at the evidence, we found that there are no benefits, widespread or sustained, to be gained by individuals, families or communities who are using compulsory income management.

We also found the scheme is poorly targeted, with studies showing that most of the people who are using compulsory income management do not have substance abuse or gambling issues, and there is no evidence that groups that are targeted by the Cashless debit card scheme are the ones presenting the highest risk behaviours.

The scheme is very expensive, diverting much needed funds away from evidence-based programs and services, and there hasn’t been any genuine consultation with any communities about how it might help or hinder their welfare.

The Cashless Debit Card Scheme undermines any self-determination for First Peoples and the Closing the Gap agreement, and the scheme itself may lead to unintended consequences, and create or worsen social the social problems that it is meant to remedy.

What we do support is an opt-in voluntary system, that can be developed in consultation with communities and supported by wrap around services that can better support individuals to make positive choices.

We have supported the government’s proposed staged approach to the abolition of the cashless debit card, which means people can transition away from compulsory income management, but we believe it is important to make sure that community support is available so that individual people have the resources they need to live with dignity.

Members of our network believe the most effective way to ensure long-term, sustainable, positive change is to ensure individualised, culturally safe, wrap-around support to people for as long as required.

This means helping people with financial counselling, family counselling, community services and programs that focus on drug and alcohol awareness, and domestic and family violence response services. There is no substitution for community support, and compulsory income management has certainly not rebuilt communities nor supported those it was meant to help to make better choices.

We think that resourcing community-led solutions will address the underlying issues that have plagued our communities, particularly our First Nations communities. Resourcing community-led projects to address community issues such as inadequate housing, lack of education, meaningful employment opportunities, health and wellbeing, and economic and social participation will achieve long term, sustainable change.

We have made some recommendations to government that you can read in our submission.