From today cashless debit cards are being delivered across Kununurra and Wyndham as part of a community co-designed trial to reduce welfare-fuelled alcohol, drug and gambling abuse.
The trial will include around 1,400 working age welfare recipients in Kununurra, Wyndham and surrounding communities.
Similar to the trial that is underway in Ceduna, the innovative trial in the East Kimberley was co-designed with community leaders to reduce unacceptable levels of violence and alcohol and drug abuse. The East Kimberley has a rate of domestic assaults more than three times the national average and the best estimate is that hospitalisation for assaults is 68 times the national average.
The trial consists of 3 parts – a cashless welfare card; comprehensive support services to help people break their addictions; and a community leadership group to guide the implementation.
Community leadership groups in both Kununurra and Wyndham are empowered to oversee the implementation of the trial and supporting programs to ensure the trial reflects the needs on the ground.
The trial aims to ensure that welfare is truly a safety net for those who need it and not an alcohol or drug-fuelled ticket to hospital or the police station.
The cashless Visa debit card works the same way as any other debit card and will allow people to buy anything, anywhere but it will not work at the bottle shop or at gambling venues, and it cannot withdraw cash.
Under the trial, 80% of an individual’s welfare payments are placed onto the card. The remaining 20% continues to go into a regular bank account.
In addition, the Government is investing $1.3 million in a range of wraparound services to provide additional support to help people break their addictions and access sobering-up, rehabilitation and counselling services, as well as financial management support, targeted youth activities and family support.
This investment will complement the existing network of services in the region, including residential rehabilitation, drug and alcohol counselling and a night patrol.
Cardholders will receive help to activate and begin using the card. For those who need it, people in the communities are also available to help card users set up their budgets. Lost, stolen or damaged cards are replaced free of charge.
The cashless debit card account is connected to people’s mobile phone numbers, and text messages are sent after every major purchase as an additional security measure and to help people manage their payments.
The Government thanks the Western Australian State Government for their support of this important welfare reform initiative.