Today is a watershed moment for how we deliver welfare payments in Australia.
The first cashless welfare debit cards are being issued today as part of a trial in Ceduna aimed at reducing welfare fuelled alcohol, drug and gambling abuse.
The trial has been co-designed with community leaders and consists of the allocation of a Visa cashless debit card to all working age income support recipients, along with additional drug and alcohol and other services.
Under the trial, 80 per cent of welfare payments will be placed onto a recipient's card, with the remaining 20 per cent continuing to go into their regular bank account.
The card will be one of the most innovative on the market. It looks like any other Visa debit card and will work everywhere Visa is accepted, but it will not work at any bottle shop or gambling house in the country, and cash cannot be withdrawn from it.
The card will be connected to people's mobile phone numbers, ensuring that text messages are sent after every major purchase informing them of the purchase and subsequent account balance. This will not only help people manage their payments over the fortnightly cycle but is an additional security measure if someone loses their card without realising.
There will be an intense effort on the ground, to ensure every individual is taken through the transition of the card step by step through activation, how to use the card, and setting up budgets should recipients wish to do so.
Over a million dollars of additional services have been put in place in preparation for the trial. This includes additional drug and alcohol services, a 24/7 mobile outreach, and financial counselling.
In addition, the Government has provided $127,000 for telecommunications infrastructure for the outlying communities in the region.
For the first time ever, the communities of as Koonibba, Yalata, Oak Valley, and Scotdesco in the trial region will have access to ongoing connectivity to the internet.
The card works to stop the cash going to alcohol and gambling, while the services are put in place to support people to get off their addictions.
The Government has worked closely with the Ceduna community on the co-design of the cashless debit card trial over the last 12 months and hope this is the moment we begin to get on top of some of the welfare fuelled alcohol, gambling and drug abuse that affects the community.
The Government thanks the South Australian State Government for their support of this important welfare reform initiative.