Child protection income management in the Northern Territory

Parliament house flag post

Child protection income management in the Northern Territory

Posted 21/10/2010 by Luke Buckmaster

The new basics card
The Gillard Government recently announced that child protection income management was being rolled out in the Northern Territory (NT). Under this program, child protection workers in the NT will be able to refer parents to Centrelink for compulsory income management when children are being neglected or are at risk of neglect.

Provision for child protection income management to be introduced into the NT was created through changes  to the NT Emergency Response earlier this year.

Income management refers to arrangements whereby a percentage of the income support and family payments of certain people is set aside to be spent only on ‘priority goods and services’ such as food, housing, clothing, education and health care.

Generally, access to income managed funds is provided through what is known as the BasicsCard. This is a PIN protected card, which allows customers to access their income managed money through existing EFTPOS facilities at approved stores and businesses. The BasicsCard cannot be used to withdraw cash or to buy alcohol, tobacco and pornographic material.

Provision for child protection income management to be established throughout Australia actually already existed through the original income management legislation introduced by the Howard Government in 2007. The other two forms of income management introduced at this time were for welfare recipients in specified Indigenous communities in the NT (as part of the NT Emergency Response) and welfare recipients subject to the Cape York Welfare Reform Trials.

While child protection is generally a state and territory matter, the child protection form of income management was introduced in order to provide a Commonwealth mechanism to help ensure that income support paid to parents is spent in the interests of children. 

Until recently, child protection income management had only been introduced in trial form (along with a trial of Voluntary Income Management) in the Kimberley region and metropolitan area of Perth in Western Australia (WA). This was done in partnership with the WA Department for Child Protection (DCP) and is supported by a bilateral agreement between the Commonwealth and WA Governments. Under the trial, a case manager from the WA DCP can refer a person to Centrelink to have up to 70 per cent of their payments managed where it is believed that this will assist the person in providing for the priority needs of their children.

The Commonwealth Government has provided $18.9 million for WA’s (compulsory and voluntary) income management trial.

According to a recently published evaluation report of the trial, from the beginning of the trial in November 2008 through to 30 April 2010, 328 people were subject to child protection income management (803 people participated in voluntary income management). At 30 April 2010, there were 226 people on child protection income management (372 were on voluntary income management).

Findings in relation to effectiveness of child protection income management based on surveys of participants in the program included:
  • 34 per cent of respondents thought it had made their life a lot better; 28 per cent thought that it had made their life a bit better; 19 per cent thought it had not made much difference to their life; and 19 per cent thought that IM had made their life a bit or a lot worse
  • 37 per cent of respondents reported that they had already recommended income management to someone else and 28 per cent said that they planned to do so in the future
  • 49 per cent of respondents thought it had made their children’s lives a lot better and 12 per cent a bit better; 33 per cent thought it had not made much difference to their children’s lives; and 7 per cent thought that it had made their children’s lives a bit worse.
The report also found that there were relatively low actual referral and take-up rates of financial management services among participants in income management.

Stakeholders (including Centrelink staff, DCP staff, financial counsellors, money management advisers and peak welfare and community organisations) were also surveyed as part of the evaluation. Among other findings, they identified both positive and negative possible outcomes of both compulsory and voluntary income management that they thought may emerge in the future.

On the positive side, these included improved budgeting and financial management skills and improved individual and family wellbeing. On the negative side, these included the possibility that people would become dependent on the system and not be able to manage their finances without remaining on IM and misuse of the BasicsCard.

On the potential for dependency on income management, it is interesting to note that 15 per cent of those on child protection income management cited 'not needing money management skills when having their money income managed' as a reason for not using financial management services.

It is worth noting that there has been some debate in recent years about the validity of evidence presented either for or against the effectiveness of income management (see for example, here and here). In particular, participants in these debates have highlighted the absence of adequate baseline data against which to measure change and the fact that most evidence so far is qualitative (based on, for example, subjective responses to surveys, interviews and focus groups) rather than quantitative. The WA income management evaluation has similar limitations and should be considered with this in mind.

Under changes  made by the Government earlier this year, the income management scheme concentrated  in remote NT communities has been replaced with a new national scheme to be introduced over time in disadvantaged areas throughout Australia (though, initially only in the NT).

These changes apply to people in the following categories:
  • people aged 15 to 24 who have been in receipt of specified payments for more than three of the last six months
  • people aged 25 and above who have been in receipt of specified payments for more than one year in the previous two years
  • people referred for income management by child protection authorities and
  • people assessed by Centrelink social workers as requiring income management due to vulnerability to financial crisis, domestic violence or economic abuse.
As such, the child protection income management program recently announced by the Government is one of several strands of income management introduced through changes to social security legislation made earlier this year.

An important question for the future arising from the introduction of this and other forms of income management (and highlighted by the evaluation report discussed above) will be the extent to which the potential benefits to participants and their children are balanced against potential negative outcomes such as dependence on income management itself.

(Image sourced from:

Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




refugees asylum immigration Australian foreign policy Parliament elections climate change social security women welfare reform taxation Indigenous Australians Australian Defence Force welfare policy school education higher education private health insurance health financing emissions trading Senate Australian Bureau of Statistics employment people trafficking Asia statistics Middle East illicit drugs gambling health reform federal election 2010 Australian Public Service income management Medicare disability Sport United Nations environment industrial relations constitution transport politics criminal law Afghanistan health forced labour food public service reform aged care aid Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget Carbon Pricing Mechanism dental health international relations governance regulation Fair Work Act voting law enforcement electoral reform OECD Australian Electoral Commission WADA child protection poker machines Australia in the Asian Century steroids National Disability Insurance Scheme detention 43rd Parliament slavery health system leadership domestic violence parliamentary procedure International Women's Day accountability defence capability multiculturalism ASADA Australian Federal Police labour force people smuggling debt New Zealand Australian Crime Commission pharmaceutical benefits scheme political parties coal seam gas Human rights crime China Census election results UK Parliament Papua New Guinea banking corruption pensions children's health Aviation federal election 2013 foreign debt gross debt net debt Senators and Members ALP Newstart Parenting Payment Youth Allowance sea farers United Kingdom energy food labelling Australian economy violence against women vocational education and training military history by-election High Court skilled migration mental health Federal Court terrorist groups science social media Higher Education Loan Program HECS federal state relations youth paid parental leave same sex relationships customs planning doping health risks Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery Special Rapporteur Northern Territory Emergency Response social policy ANZUS Rural and regional trade unions Foreign affairs election timetable Indigenous royal commission Productivity firearms public policy Population ADRV terrorism transparency research and development welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation carbon tax mining employer employee renewable energy regional unemployment fishing European Union family assistance United Nations Security Council forestry Drugs welfare systems Indonesia children Constitutional reform local government codes of conduct terrorist financing homelessness Parliamentary remuneration money laundering Trafficking in Persons Report social inclusion paternalism environmental law US presidential election nutrition ODA Defence sitting days electoral divisions Southeast Asia administrative law universities TAFE Ireland citizenship asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity standards NATO Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse World Trade Organization Australia public health housing affordability bulk billing water health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation public housing expertise climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets animal health middle class welfare constitutional recognition of local government referendum consumer laws PISA competition policy US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition citizen engagement policymaking Australia Greens servitude Trafficking Protocol forced marriage alcohol entitlements ministries Hung Parliament social citizenship maritime Iran regional students school chaplains federal budget 2011-12 salary Medicare Locals primary care Building the Education Revolution marine pollution sustainability prisons police deaths in custody electoral margins electoral pendulum electoral redistribution redistribution NSW redistribution WA redistribution ACT electoral boundaries ASEAN Sustainable Development Goals Double dissolution Senators safety vehicles MYEFO Pathology tertiary education Taiwan Xi Ma meeting family violence government financial advisers financial planners Financial System Inquiry Murray Inquiry China; Economic policy; Southeast Asia; Africa housing Speaker; House of Representatives; Parliament High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Israel Palestine asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders prime ministers First speech defence budget submarines workers Somalia GDP world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission limitation period cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports infant mortality honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC anti-dumping Rent Assistance obesity evidence law sacrament of confession international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements small business Breaker Morant regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Members suspension workplace health and safety marine reserves hearing Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing political education Social Inclusion Board early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin sanctions Norway hospitals republic President Barack Obama Presidential visits qantas counselling Korean peninsula Work Choices biosecurity hendra federalism federation preselection therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration plebiscites computer games pests suicide nuclear COAG Ministerial Councils floods ADHD stimulant medication advertising electricity extradition conscience votes poverty preventative health rural health coastal erosion Parliamentary Budget Office work-life balance

Show all
Show less
Back to top