Let’s talk: Is a cashless, Government-controlled welfare card really fair? 158

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On Wednesday evening, the Life Matters show on the ABC ran a segment on the proposed ‘cashless welfare card’ that has had everyone talking. When we say everyone, we really mean it. So today we want to know, do you think it’s fair?

The ABC made this post on their Facebook page and it’s had more engagements than we’ve seen on the ABC in a long time. The thing is, Australia seems incredibly divided. The card was proposed as an alternative payment system for Centrelink payments. Currently, welfare recipients can use the funds to buy anything they choose like a normal income. However there is increasing concern about people on welfare using their money to buy alcohol, drugs and gamble.

This card would completely stop all unnecessary and harmful purchases and would only be available at certain retailers.

There’s been some very interesting arguments on both sides that Pedestrian.tv gathered up including:

  • Denying certain things to certain people is a slippery slope – could the ban of these things lead to further bans later on for inappropriate reasons? For example, banning certain types of food because they are seen as ‘luxury items’?
  • Are cigarettes also banned?
  • Are prescription drugs banned? Or are certain prescription drugs banned?
  • What about cardholders with addictions? Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol (or any kind of) addiction can sometimes include destructive actions or antisocial behaviour, which may make things worse for the person.
  • People from lower socio-economic areas and rural areas are more likely to have alcohol and drug addictions, from 2012 statistics. Doesn’t the card system negatively affect them to a larger extent, just because of where they live?
  • In reference to ‘The Prohibition‘, banning items has never really worked, because people still find ways to access them. Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on the issues of alcohol, drug and gambling addictions, and provide more support and resources to those suffering?
  • America’s SNAP ‘food stamp’ system often leads to trading ‘essential’ items for drugs and alcohol – wouldn’t the implementation of a similar system here lead to the same thing?
  • How on earth would someone buy drugs with a card anyway?
  • There are certain things (especially in schools, such as mufti days and excursions) that have to be paid in cash. What is a family supposed to do in that situation?
  • Would cardholders be limited in where they shopped? Would only major shops and companies accept the card?
  • If so, wouldn’t this affect local and small businesses, who were recently singled out for more support in the Federal Budget?
  • If so, what if someone needed to buy a specialty item? For example, a necessary health item from a smaller shop?
  • What if someone needed to buy a gift?
  • What about younger cardholders – wouldn’t this card affect their ability to manage money later in life?
  • Isn’t determining the social class of someone with a card degrading?

So there’s a big debate that Australia needs to have before this can go anywhere.

Today tell us, what do you think? Should the card be introduced? Do you think it’s a good initiative or do you think that people should have freedom, no matter their dependence on the government? Share your thoughts in the comments below… 

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  1. Having worked in the women’s refuge system, I can see great value in the card system. I regularly saw the same clients walk through the door two days after pension day because their partners or/& they had spent all their money on drugs, alcohol & gambling. Certainly there are many details that need fine tuning but I believe it is the way to go.

    2 REPLY
    • Any thoughts on how you think people will get cash for those things if this card comes in? Having worked in the sector you’ll be very aware that without lots of support when the time is right, people won’t just stop buying them. So the alternative is?

    • Yes, Shannon. There will need to be programmes in place to assist with detox etc when it comes to drugs & alcohol. There is no easy answer but giving them cash makes it far too easy to squander their money. It is heartbreaking to watch the kids in these family situations suffer. At least with a card system they may end up with food in their stomachs. I think it needs to be a combination of a small amount of cash & a card.

  2. No it is definitely not, I also worked in a Women’s Refuge, with budgeting advice and help they do learn how to control their own money, it takes time . It is probable that they have never had control over their money in a very long time and it starts to give them control and independent back to get in charge of themselves and their children and be able to move forward.

  3. No. Most people I know who receive assistance from the government do it to help survive, why put them down more by telling them what they have to do with the little money they receive and will this apply for pensioner as well, how degrading will that be for people who have worked hard all their lives.

    2 REPLY
    • That is the theory Mary, but as you know, it will eventually apply to everyone on social welfare including pensioners. That is how the system works. Politicians, on all sides, who are supposed to work for us, are actually working against us, and we are letting them.

  4. No it is very unfair, people need some cash for parking meters, for kids ;lunches and markets and even to park at Hospital you need cash..I think its horrible they are trying to turn us into the USA..what next food stamps, first the unemployed and disabled and what next the old aged Pension?

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