Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS – the peak body for the community services sector in Australia – calls on the Senate to reject mandatory cashless debit cards following the release of the Senate committee inquiry report.

“Mandatory cashless debit cards are not backed by reliable evidence. Legislation to expand the cards does not have support of a broad range of individuals and organisations within and without trial sites, including the Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar, and National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples.

“There is wide-ranging concern that mandatory cashless debit has been imposed on communities without proper consultation and consent.

“This is a totally unacceptable approach to policy making. Communities must be listened to and have control over their futures.

“We know that the card is making people’s lives more difficult. The government’s own interim evaluation found that half of the people subjected to the card said their lives had become worse since its introduction.

Research conducted by the ANU found that 34 of 35 people interviewed in the East Kimberley said the card had made their lives worse.

“The cashless debit card applies to anyone receiving a working-age income support payment in trial site communities, irrespective of whether they have an addiction to alcohol, drugs or gambling.

“ACOSS believes cashless debit should be voluntary, with transition arrangements in place for individuals and communities wishing to remain under CDC. Opt-in schemes should be co-designed with communities and include wraparound and coordinated supports as directed by communities.

“The evaluation of cashless debit in Ceduna and the East Kimberley found that in both communities, people reported the need for the development or expansion of service delivery in a number of key areas including mental health, youth programs, financial counselling, programs for men, domestic violence services, rehabilitation, and employment programs.

“This is where the government should be focusing their attention, rather than spending $10,000 per person in administering the cashless debit card to people living in poverty.

“We welcome the Greens’ continued opposition to mandatory cashless debit cards. We also welcome Labor’s decision to oppose the expansion of the card to other sites.

“We call on the Senate to reject the Cashless Debit Card Bill, which would allow mandatory cashless debit cards to be imposed anywhere in the country.”

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