Centrelink cashless welfare card trial costing taxpayers $10,000 per participant

Dan Conifer political reporter ABC

A Federal Government trial restricting how Centrelink recipients can spend their money is costing taxpayers up to about $10,000 per participant.

The Cashless Debit Card quarantines 80 per cent of welfare and cannot pay for liquor, gambling or be used to withdraw cash.

The Coalition is looking to expand income management to more communities, with one MP pushing for 10 new trial sites to be announced in next week’s budget.

Details released under the Freedom of Information show the pilot program is costing up to $18.9 million, excluding GST.

The Government is paying the debit card provider, Indue, at least $7.9 million, while the Social Service Department’s administrative costs are $2.6 million.

The Commonwealth is also spending $2.6 million on additional supports, such as drug and alcohol services.

A Government-funded report in March said about 1,850 people were covered by the trial.

The Newstart allowance for a single person without children is $535.60 per fortnight – less than $14,000 each year.

The compulsory scheme began last year in two areas with large Aboriginal populations — Ceduna in South Australia and Western Australia’s East Kimberley.

The preliminary report found a quarter of drinkers on the card reported consuming alcohol less often and about a third of gamblers had curbed the habit.

But it also showed one in two participants said their life was worse because of the card.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge used the data to hail the card a “success” and last month told the ABC the Coalition was considering a further rollout.

“We just want to further consult with different regions in terms of their appetite for change,” he said.

“And then we’ll consult obviously internally and assess whether or not we should be progressing further with it.”

Labor has reserved judgment on the possibility of expansion until a final evaluation is released mid-year.

But it has rejected the prospect of Australia-wide welfare quarantining.

“Labor does not believe that the cashless debit card should be rolled out nationally,” Opposition social services spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said.

Ms Macklin and Labor’s human services spokeswoman Linda Burney last m

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