Media Release by The Hon Christian Porter MP

Cashless Debit Card extended following positive independent evaluation

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Alan Tudge MP
    Minister for Human Services

The Government has agreed to extend the Cashless Debit Card trial sites in Ceduna, South Australia and East Kimberley, Western Australia due to the strong independent evaluation results, released today and in consultation with community leaders.

The Wave 1 Report of the independent evaluation being undertaken by ORIMA Research concluded that “overall, the [trial] has been effective to date… in particular, the trial has been effective in reducing alcohol consumption, illegal drug use and gambling – establishing a clear ‘proof-of-concept’.”

The Cashless Debit Card aims to reduce the devastating effects of welfare fuelled alcohol, drug and gambling abuse. Over time it is hoped the card will assist people to break the cycle of welfare dependency by stabilising their lives and helping them into employment.

The Report found “most stakeholders felt that excessive alcohol consumption was at a “crisis point” and was having wide-ranging negative impacts on individuals, their families and the community.”

Under the current trial, 80% of welfare payments are placed onto a recipient’s card, with the remaining 20% placed into their regular bank account.

The trial has consisted of 3 parts – a Cashless Debit Card, comprehensive support services to help people break their addictions, and a community leadership group to guide the design and implementation.

The Report outlines key results across the two trial sites including:

  • Alcohol – on average, of trial participants surveyed who reported that they do drink alcohol, 25% of participants and 13% of family members reported drinking alcohol less frequently, whilst 25% of participants reported engaging in binge drinking less frequently.
  • Gambling – on average, of trial participants surveyed who reported they do gamble, 32% of participants and 15% of family members reported gambling less.
  • Drug use – on average, of trial participants surveyed who reported using illegal drugs before the trial commenced, 24% reported using illegal drugs less often.

In addition, the evaluation data states a significant proportion (31%) of the participants surveyed indicated they had been better able to care for children and save more money.

Reductions in alcohol consumption, illegal drug use and gambling have been “largely driven by the impact of the debit card quarantining mechanism and not by the additional services provided,” according to the Report.

The Report supports other data from local partners and anecdotal feedback:

  • The number of pick-ups made by the Kununurra Miriwoong Community Patrol Service for Alcohol in January 2017 was 19% lower than in January 2016.
  • Monthly poker machine revenue in Ceduna and surrounding local government areas in January 2017 is 12% lower compared to January 2016.
  • Admissions to the Wyndham Sobering-Up Unit in September 2016 were 49% lower than before the trial began in September 2015.
  • The senior medical officer in the East Kimberley has reported a “dramatic reduction in alcohol related presentations to the emergency department”
  • The Ceduna mayor says that “it is the quietest the town has been.”
  • Retailers in both sites report an increase in white goods, clothes, food and household items purchased since the introduction of the card.

Minister for Human Services, Alan Tudge, worked with the community leaders on the design and implementation of the trial and believes the results support an extension of the card.

“The card is a not a panacea, but it has led to stark improvements in these communities. There are very few other initiatives that have had such impact.

“A large part of the success has been the close working relationship with local leaders, who have co-designed and implemented the trial with us. The South Australian and Western Australian State Governments have also been very supportive.

“There is still a lot of work to do, but if we can continue on this path, then over time we can make these communities safe, healthy and prosperous once again,” Minister Tudge said.

The extension of the card will allow the Government to make fully informed decisions about the future of welfare conditionality. The final evaluation report by ORIMA Research is due mid-2017.

Download the Initial Conditions Report and Wave 1 Interim Evaluation Report.