Media Release by The Hon Alan Tudge MP

Additional services for Ceduna as part of welfare card trial

An extra million dollars of funding will be invested to build on existing Australian Government services in and around Ceduna as the community prepares to trial a cashless debit card for welfare payments.

The support package announced today complements existing services and together represents a comprehensive response to address addiction, help people reduce their dependence on alcohol or drugs, and have better financial management practices.

The package has been designed in conjunction with the community leadership group and includes:

  • Working with the South Australian Government to establish a new mobile outreach team to be on duty 24/7 patrolling the streets so vulnerable people get the help they need and the community is not disrupted.
  • Experienced drug and alcohol counsellors based in communities as well as additional capacity for the existing mental health and drug services in the township of Ceduna.
  • Support to access rehabilitation services, such as the new $4.5m residential rehabilitation service in Port Augusta.
  • Expanding the capacity of existing financial management services as well as intense one-on-one support to assist people transition to the new debit card.
  • Extra funding for family violence services
  • Support through the CDP scheme for additional diversionary activities in communities as well as extra business development support.

Earlier this year communities in the Ceduna and Far West Regions of South Australia called for the welfare debit card to be trialled to address the welfare fuelled alcohol and drug abuse that affects their communities.

In August, the Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Ceduna community leaders to trial the welfare debit card in the Ceduna region.

From early 2016, working age income support recipients in the region will receive a mainstream debit card upon which eighty percent of all their welfare payments will be placed. The card will work anywhere and enable the purchase of anything, but it will not work at liquor stores or gambling venues and cash cannot be withdrawn with the card.

Mr Tudge said that the welfare debit card “has the potential to significant reduce welfare fuelled social harm by reducing the available cash for grog, drugs and gambling.” 2

“The services announced today will complement the operation of the card. They are a comprehensive set of services to support people coming off alcohol dependence.

“The trial also presents the opportunity to establish better financial management practices. We will be encouraging people to establish budgets and have additional capacity to help people do so.”

“Every step of the design of this trial has been done in conjunction with the community leadership group.”

“The Government is absolutely determined to see the trial succeed, resulting in a stronger and healthier community,” Mr Tudge said.

Attachment- additional services for Ceduna as part of welfare debit card trial

A. Drug and alcohol support

i. Residential Rehabilitation

The Australian Government has committed $4.5 million over three years for a new 12 bed residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation service expected to open in Port Augusta in late October 2015. People from the Ceduna trial region in need of residential rehabilitation will be able to access this new facility which will offer seven days a week, round-the-clock accommodation and treatment. It will provide individual and intensive assistance for people experiencing severe alcohol and drug addictions.

In addition to this significant investment, the Australian Government is providing additional funding to assist in linking people in the trial region with the facility, such as transporting them there if they need help (more detail on this linking/support service below).

ii. Drug and alcohol counselling and support

There are already several services in place to address alcohol misuse in the trial region, mostly based in the township of Ceduna. For example:

  • the Ceduna Day Centre, which receives over $2 million of funding from Australian Government, provides free confidential treatment, counselling, and non-residential programs to help people with their alcohol and other drug issues.
  • an existing sobering up centre which provides support 24 hours a day, seven days week. It also helps connect people to other support services.
  • there is also a Mobile Assistance Patrol to help people access the sobering up centre or transitional accommodation.

As part of the trial, the Australian Government is building on these existing services by providing extra funding for:

  • an extra four workers to undertake intensive alcohol and other drugs case management and outreach services across Ceduna and the region, including to communities such as Koonibba, Yalata, Scotdesco and Oak Valley
  • these workers will work closely with participants to offer individualised and flexible support across a range of issues depending on individual need
  • a new alcohol and other drugs brokerage fund to quickly assist people affected by drugs and alcohol to book into, and travel to and from funded support and counselling services.

iii. A new 24/7 mobile outreach

The Australian Government is working with the South Australian Government to provide a new 24/7 mobile outreach team working out of the Ceduna Service Reform Group. The new 24/7 mobile outreach team will be on duty patrolling the streets so vulnerable people get the help they need and the community is not disrupted. The team will be tasked with preventing escalation of incidents that could harm the wider community or disrupt local business. The team will patrol the streets, making contact with people engaging in risky and anti-social behaviour, removing them from the situation and the possibility of causing harm to themselves or the community.

The team will assist people to get home, or to a treatment centre or another service if that is more appropriate. The team would also work closely with South Australian police and other agencies in the region to ensure a coordinated effort to improve community safety.

Ceduna already has an existing Family Violence Prevention Legal Service, which provides outreach support to outlying communities. In addition to legal support, this service provides sexual assault counselling, child protection support, community engagement, and does early intervention and prevention work. The Australian Government will provide extra funding to this service to assist in ensure that family violence incidents and issues can be quickly addressed.

B. Assistance with financial management and transitional support

The welfare debit card trial provides an opportunity to support people to establish better financial management practices. The Government will encourage people on the cashless card trial to establish a budget and will put in place the support staff and structures to facilitate this.

In addition, people will be supported during the transition to the trial, including with activating cards, setting up PINs and making sure any direct debit payments currently in place can continue. The Australian Government will also provide funding for financial wellbeing and capability services including providing people with access to financial counsellors and budgeting assistance.

i. Financial Wellbeing and Capability Services

The Australian Government is funding financial counsellors for the Ceduna region to assist people to manage their money better through one-on-one budgeting advice, under the Commonwealth Financial Counselling programme. Financial counsellors will provide intensive one-on-one support and undertake in-depth assessments of people’s financial situations, then work with them to improve their ability to manage their money and address any issues which may contribute to long-term financial hardship.

Financial counsellors also help people with completing complex financial documentation and can help negotiate payment plans for debts.

ii. Transitional Support

People will be given support to transition to the new card arrangements. In addition to having access to trained financial counsellors, the card provider will assist trial participants to:

  • set up regular deductions / payment transfers;
  • establish BPAY arrangements for the payment of bills;
  • organise the transfer of direct debits to the new account; and,
  • understand basic card functionality and who to contact if they have any issues.

This support will be available on the ground in Ceduna and surrounding communities prior to the commencement of the trial and throughout implementation.

People who currently access Department of Human Services functions like Centrepay or Rent Deduction Schemes will continue to have access to these services as they did previously.

C. Early Childhood

Ceduna already has a child care centre, Children’s and Families Centre, Mothers and Baby Services and primary healthcare services working to ensure the children of Ceduna are getting the best possible start in life. To support this work, Ceduna has been identified as a priority community under the new Australian Government Child Care Community Fund to trial new innovative approaches to the delivery and integration of early childhood services for Indigenous children and their families.

We know that good early childhood experiences lay the foundation for future health and wellbeing. This is why Ceduna has been recommended as one of ten communities across Australia to be prioritised for access to $20 million of Australian Government 2015-16 Budget funding which focuses on:

  • Integrating existing early childhood services
  • making it easier for parents and children to get the services they need
  • improving links with local schools
  • reducing barriers to school readiness, including low birth weight, poor nutrition, illness and congenital conditions.

Ceduna has been recommended as one of ten communities across Australia prioritised for the first round of funding, to be provided in early 2016 with a view to rolling out the model later that year.

D. Economic development and training opportunities

The Australian Government is investing to support adults with opportunities to break out of welfare dependence and become productive and engaged members of the community.

i. Business Development

Ceduna will be a priority location for receiving assistance from a Business Development Specialist, who will assist small businesses and individuals identify potential business opportunities, improve employment training, and drive local economic development.

A Business Development Specialist will visit Ceduna regularly to work with the community to evaluate priority economic development projects that have been identified by the community. They will speak with local businesses, regional Aboriginal organisations, and local and state government to:

  • map out business and economic opportunities in the region;
  • work on business ideas and source start-up funding (for example through the Enterprise Development Fund, which is a national Commonwealth investment of $25 million for remote economic development); and
  • link existing business activities to CDP, where they might be able to receive funding for hosting CDP participants.

Projects that are successful under the Enterprise Development Fund will also be supported by a mentor who will provide business advice for up to two years. This ongoing support will mean businesses are better able to achieve sustainability beyond the short-term.

ii. Community Development Programme

The Australian Government will ensure that the local Community Development Programme (CDP) provider delivers employment, training and a range of diversionary activities in the Ceduna region.

Under the new CDP, job seekers aged between 18 and 49 in remote communities are required to undertake approved activities for up to 25 hours per week. CDP providers deliver a mix of Work for the Dole activities that establish a daily work-like routine for the job seeker, five days a week. Job seekers in and around Ceduna will get real work experience while they are on the dole, providing them with the opportunity to learn new skills that will help them transition to regular employment over time.

The Australian Government will also work with the CDP provider and communities to put in place diversionary activities to keep people busy and engaged in the community. Examples of possible CDP placements include assisting at the local ‘Meals On Wheels’ service; building furniture; caring for the elderly; walking kids to school; or helping at the local arts centre.