Cashless welfare cards are being introduced in and around Ceduna in South Australia from today.
In a divisive 12 month trial to tackle the town’s alcohol and gambling problems, 80 per cent of a welfare recipient’s payments will now go onto a bank account linked to a debit card. Services also will be available to help people overcome their addictions.
Now I spoke to Alan Tudge, he’s got carriage of this and oversees the roll out of the Healthy Welfare Card.
I spoke to him today. While he does admit there are divisions within the community, he says that there will be a trial and there is an opportunity to roll this out right across the country, not country wider per se but in some of these problem areas in some of these communities that do face these problems.
This is what Alan Tudge had to say about the programme, and looking at this over the next 12 months.
Alan Tudge, thanks for your time. How will we know if this welfare card is successful?
We will have a full evaluation at the end of the trial but even after a few months I think we will be able to see whether or not it is successful because we will see some of the social harm indicators - such as the assault rates, the domestic violence rates, the hospitalisation rates - and we hope that they will track down over time.
As well we will get some qualitative assessments from people on the ground as to whether or not they think it’s working, and whether they see a noticeable change in their community.
This is obviously very much supported by the community. Is that the key to success here? And this is not just aimed at the Indigenous population is it? This idea came out of the Andrew Forrest review.
Yeah, that’s right. The first trial site is in Ceduna and there’s a significant Indigenous population there, but the card applies to all people - Indigenous or otherwise - to all income support recipients of working age.
Now, yes, we have had tremendous support on the ground from community leaders there. In fact more than that, they have co-designed this trial with me, and in the process, I think that doesn’t guarantee success, but you are far more likely to have a successful outcome if you’ve got that support from the community leaders.
How could this fall down? Obviously, it could be open to rorting, but what are the other potential problems with this?
I hope that it’s a tremendous success because this community sadly does have some very significant welfare-fuelled alcohol, drugs and gambling abuse.
I hope that this trial, even in a small way, will reduce some of that social harm and help people get their lives back on track.
As you know Laura, the trial is a combination of two things. It is the welfare card which will reduce a lot of the cash being available for alcohol, drugs and gambling.
On the other hand there is also an investment in services to assist people to get off their addictions and get back onto the right pathway.
The combination of those two things is, I consider, a full scale assault against alcohol problems in that community. So I really hope it does have that impact.
So do you see this being rolled out nationwide?
I can see it being rolled out further but we have not made decisions on that yet. We do want to get the trials going and see how it goes.
Already I have had leaders from many regions across the country who are requesting for me to at least go there and have a chat to them about whether or not this could be applicable to their region.
Alan Tudge, thank you.
Thanks so much Laura.