AHCWA calls for a “voluntary, opt-in” cashless welfare program

The Aboriginal Health Council of WA has called for a “voluntary, opt-in” cashless welfare program for “at-risk” welfare recipients if the Federal Government pushes ahead with plans for an income management system.

The proposal is outlined in AHCWA’s submission to the Inquiry into the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 and will be detailed in evidence, due to be given by AHCWA chairperson Michelle Nelson-Cox in Kalgoorlie today.

The submission also calls for the cashless debit card to be considered on a case-by-case basis; and significant investment in community-led, culturally appropriate local programs to address alcohol, gambling and drug abuse.

Ms Nelson-Cox said the council was vehemently opposed to the Bill and the Federal Government’s “one-size fits all approach” to address complex social issues.

“AHCWA and our member services remain gravely concerned at the continued endorsement of the cashless debit card as the best solution to respond to the harms of alcohol, gambling and drug abuse,” Ms Nelson-Cox said.

“This proposal is a blanket, one-size fits all approach that punishes the majority because of the actions of a few.

“The government must support local solutions to inherently complex social issues, rather than impose an autocratic system that disempowers people and communities.”

Ms Nelson-Cox said there was no evidence to support a wider roll-out of the cashless debit card and there was no clear plan to increase community programs and support services.

“AHCWA is keen to work with governments to develop solutions to address the harms related to alcohol, gambling and other drugs in communities, but we do not believe the cashless debit card is the answer,” she said.

“There has been no conclusive quantitative data to support its introduction and there is an overwhelming lack of community support and involvement in its design.

“What needs to be considered is a welfare system that is equitable, sustainable, innovative and responsive to the unique and complex needs of Australians.”

Ms Nelson-Cox urged the government to give Aboriginal community and community-controlled organisations the opportunity to help design policies and programs that impact on them.

AHCWA is the peak body for Aboriginal health in WA, with 22 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHS) currently engaged as members.

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