“Income management proponents say it can stabilise recipients’ lives and finances, and our study found some people have experienced these benefits.
However many more people have faced additional financial challenges because of the policies.
Many also found their expenses had increased as they were blocked from participating in the cash economy and burdened with new fees and charges.
There have been recent moves to extend the Cashless Debit Card across the Northern Territory, but our findings show that CIM has in fact weakened many participants’ financial capabilities and autonomy.
To manage their finances, many participants have become reliant on family members, service providers or automatic payment systems.”
The University of Queensland’s Professor Greg Marston said the majority of participants using the Basics Card or Cashless Debit Card reported practical difficulties making purchases and paying bills, which introduced new instability into their lives
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“Our research illustrates that the empirical case for continuing with the current policy settings on [compulsory income management] is weak,” the study said. “Our research is certainly not the first to suggest these set of policy measures require a fundamental rethink.”
The Morrison government wants to impose the cashless debit card on 23,000 Territorians with no evidence it works.
We’ve had compulsory income management with the Basics Card in the NT for 13 years. “
Senator Malarndirri McCarthy – Northern Territory : See Guardian article
“It is untenable for the Government to continue the so-called cashless debit card trial sites in Ceduna, the East Kimberley, Goldfields and Hinkler region and to extend it to the NT.
Income management has been a racist discriminatory tool imposed on First Nations peoples for over a decade, since the NT Intervention.
The Government is trying to entrench this card by stealth through legislation that extends the card, year by year without proper evaluation.
It is appalling that the Government is hinting at a national rollout as people are suffering right now on this card.
This study reflects what was found by the final evaluation of the NT intervention, that income management met none of its objectives, as well as the ANAO report which found that there was no evidence that there had been a reduction in social harm in the so-called trial sites. “
Senator Rachel Siewert
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Restricting where and on what social security payments can be spent does more harm than good, according to the first large, independent study into Compulsory Income Management (CIM) policies in Australia.
The study team said CIM had often been framed as an intervention to strengthen benefit recipients’ independence, build responsibility and help transition people away from “welfare dependency” and into work.
Professor Marston said previous evaluations had raised significant concerns about the capacity of income management policies to meet their stated objectives, yet income management continued to be expanded.
Researcher Dr Michelle Peterie said the study was unique for its focus on individuals’ and communities’ experiences with the Cashless Debit Card and BasicsCard.
“These voices have frequently been lost or ignored in the policy debate,” she said.
Dr Peterie said the research showed a voluntary, opt-in form of income management could have a place, however the social, emotional and economic costs of continuing with a compulsory, widespread system outweighed the benefits.
“The overwhelming finding is that compulsory income management is having a disabling rather than enabling affect on the lives of many social security recipients,” Dr Peterie said.
“This was true across all of our research sites.”
Professor Marston said a policy approach that focused on providing employment and training opportunities and ensuring accessible social services and affordable housing would be a better starting point for creating healthy, economically secure and socially inclusive communities.
The research involved 114 in-depth interviews, conducted at four trial sites (Playford, Shepparton, Ceduna and Hinkler), and a mixed-methods survey of 199 people at income management sites across Australia.