Australia Celebrates End of Cashless Welfare
Users of Australia’s cashless welfare cards are rejoicing after the new government confirmed it will scrap the initiative. The announcement follows the publishing of a report by the Australian Audit Office (ANAO) that concluded the controversial trial had failed to meet its objectives.
The Australian Labor Party committed to cancelling the cards—which ringfenced welfare money onto cards that governed where people could shop and what they could buy—in their pre-election pledges, and now that they are in power, they have confirmed they will deliver on the promise.
One of the first briefings I received as minister was on the Cashless Debit Card, and one of my first decisions was to instruct my department to prepare for its termination.
The stated goals of the cashless welfare cards were to ‘support recipients in better managing their finances and encourage socially responsible behaviour’. The ANAO report examining the trial’s performance was clear that ‘the Department of Social Services has not demonstrated that the program is meeting its intended objectives.’
Kerryn Griffis of Bundaberg was one of thousands of Australians placed onto the card, and said ‘it has massively negatively impacted mine and my kids’ lives. It has been a nightmare.’ Criticisms included the stigma attached to using the cards—which clearly identified people as being welfare recipients—and the fact that they locked people out of local cash-based economies such as small independent traders and markets.
All the local landlords know the trouble tenants have with paying their rent on time, so nobody wants to rent to someone on a card. Throw in the rental crisis and it was just the perfect storm, really.
A date has not been set for the cards to be discontinued, but Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth has said she will consult with local communities to discuss more appropriate solutions to support them going forward.
[The cashless welfare cards] cost taxpayers more than $170 million. There were no key performance indicators and no ongoing evaluation. That’s bad policy.