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Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management and Cashless Welfare) Bill 2019


Income management in Cape York and the cashless debit card trials in all of the current cashless debit card sites except Bundaberg and Hervey Bay are set to end on 30 June 2019. The Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management and Cashless Welfare) Bill 2019 (the Bill) extends income management in Cape York and the expiring cashless debit card trial sites until 30 June 2020 (the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay trial already has an end date of 30 June 2020).

The Minister for Families and Social Services, Paul Fletcher, announced a 12 month extension of the Cashless Debit Card in the Ceduna region (South Australia), the East Kimberley region (Western Australia) and the Goldfields region (Western Australia) in December 2018. This was included in the 2018–19 Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO). Also included in the MYEFO was the expansion of the cashless debit card to Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in Queensland.

The Government signalled its support for continuing income management in Cape York in a media release of 3 December 2018.

Background

Both income management and the cashless debit card attempt to prevent income support recipients from spending their payments on potentially harmful goods and services such as alcohol, illicit drugs, and gambling. The two schemes achieve this in different ways. Income management relies on a card (the BasicsCard) that can only be used at merchants who have opted into the scheme, while the cashless debit card cannot be used at merchants in blocked categories such as bottle shops.

Income management is operating in a number of locations around Australia. The scheme works differently in different locations. Income management in Cape York is the only income management measure with a legislated end date.

A form of income management has been operating as part of the Cape York Welfare Reform trial since July 2008. Income management in Cape York has been extended through a series of Acts, the most recent being the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Queensland Commission Income Management Regime) Act 2017. Further details are available in the  Bills Digest for the Bill for that Act.

In the Cape York Welfare Reform trial, individuals are referred to income management by a body known as the Family Responsibilities Commission.

As described above, the cashless debit card is currently operating in the Ceduna region (South Australia), the East Kimberley region (Western Australia) the Goldfields region (Western Australia) and in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay (Queensland).

Information on the operation of the cashless debit card is available from the Department of Social Services cashless debit card web page and the card provider, Indue’s, website. Information on the numbers of income management and cashless debit card trial participants is available from the data.gov.au website.

Provisions

Income management in Cape York

Section 123UF of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 sets out the conditions under which a person is subject to income management as part of the Cape York Welfare Reform trial. According to the Explanatory Memorandum for the Bill:

Paragraphs 123UF(1)(g) and 123UF(2)(h) currently provide that a person may be subject to the income management regime under section 123UF if, before 1 July 2019, the Family Responsibilities Commission provided the Secretary with a written notice requiring that the person be subject to the income management regime.

Item 1 of Schedule 1 to the Bill omits references to 1 July 2019 in paragraphs 123UF(1)(g) and 123UF(2)(h), and substitutes 1 July 2020.

Cashless debit card

Section 124PF of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 sets out the beginning and end dates for the cashless debit card trials. Subparagraph 124PF(1)(b)(i) sets out the end date for all the current sites other than Bundaberg and Hervey Bay and subparagraph 124PF(1)(b)(ii) sets out the end date for Bundaberg and Hervey Bay.

Item 2 of Schedule 1 to the Bill repeals paragraph 124PF(1)(b) and substitutes a provision that specifies the cashless debit card trial is due to end on 30 June 2020 for all trial areas.

The Bill will commence on the day after Royal Assent.

Further information

D Arthur, ‘Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card Trial Expansion) Bill 2018’, Flagpost, Parliamentary Library blog, 26 June 2018.

D Arthur, Social Services Legislation Amendment (Queensland Commission Income Management Regime) Bill 2017, Bills digest, 110, 2016–17, Parliamentary Library, Canberra, 14 June 2017.

J Scott et al, Strategic review of Cape York income management, Queensland University of Technology, November 2018.

Department of Social Services (DSS), ‘Cashless debit card - evaluation framework and reports’, DSS website, 20 November 2018.

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