Jesuit Social Services has previously outlined a range of concerns about the ongoing trials and continued expansion of the cashless debit card measures. These include the disproportionate impact of the scheme on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities; inadequate consultation with affected communities; its compulsory nature; the lack of a clear evidence base; and evidence illustrating the trials’ harmful impacts. These concerns remain.
We are therefore opposed to the Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Continuation of Cashless Welfare) Bill 2020, which seeks to make the cashless debit card scheme permanent in existing trial locations, and expand it to the Northern Territory and Cape York. We believe these measures, implemented on a blanket basis in areas with high levels of social and economic disadvantage, only further disempower, demoralise and stigmatise people who are vulnerable. The impact of COVID-19, which has taken a disproportionate toll on already marginalised communities, only heightens concerns about this blunt approach to income support.
The blanket imposition of compulsory income management does not address the real and pressing issues many communities, including rural or remote communities, are facing: high levels of unemployment, poverty, lack of safe and affordable housing, and food insecurity, to name a few.
As part of a better response to supporting people and communities in need, we recommend implementing a fair and permanent increase to JobSeeker and related payments to ensure people are supported with a living wage while they look for work. We also call on the Federal Government to replace the Community Development Program, the federal remote-area employment scheme, with a model in line with that proposed by Aboriginal Peak Organisations NT (APO NT) that is place-based, community-driven and fosters long-term collaboration across governments, employers, Indigenous organisations and communities.