Mandatory cashless debit must cease following damning report

18 July 2018

ACOSS calls on the Federal Government to cease mandatory cashless debit card trials, including withdrawing its bill to expand cashless debit to parts of Queensland, following a damning report about the trials’ evaluation by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO).

The ANAO found major flaws in the evaluation of the cashless debit card trials in Ceduna in South Australia and the East Kimberley in Western Australia, stating ‘it is difficult to conclude whether there had been a reduction in social harm’ as a result of the card.

The ANAO confirmed the $1.6 million evaluation did not undertake robust data collection, which ‘reduced how effectively the impact of the actual trial on social harm could be isolated and evaluated’.

The government must now explain why it has expanded cashless debit to the Goldfields, WA and continued existing trials when former Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge said the policy would only be expanded if an evaluation found that it works.

Acting ACOSS CEO Edwina MacDonald stated, “as we have said all along, cashless debit card curtails people’s freedom and must be thoroughly evaluated to determine whether the significant incursion on people’s lives is justified.

“The ANAO report shows that the evaluation was deeply flawed, failing to provide the evidence that the cashless debit card improves people’s lives.

“It is a tragedy that people and communities are being subjected to the trials without reliable evidence that restricting access to cash reduces social harm related to addiction.

“People under the trials continue to be treated like second-class citizens, subjected to the card irrespective of how well they manage their money or whether or not they have an addiction.

“They cannot freely purchase goods on major online sites such as Gumtree or eBay, or buy produce and goods and cash-only markets.

“ACOSS calls on the government to end mandatory cashless debit and redirect the millions of dollars spent on mandatory cashless debit card trials to proven measures for addiction, including improving mental health services in trial sites, tailoring services to meet community need and investing in community-led solutions.”

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