The Cashless Debit Card.
The Cashless Debit Card.

Recipients report ‘stigma and shame’ over cashless card

INTERVIEWS with those on the Cashless Debit Card, including those in Hinkler, have found stigma and shame was a "consistent point of discussion", new research shows.

Hidden Costs: An Independent Study into Income Management in Australia had researchers from four universities collaborate.

The introduction of the cashless card trial has had thousands of Hinkler residents placed on compulsory income management, with those on the card able to access 20 per cent of their welfare payment in cash.

The other 80 per cent is on an Indue card and participants cannot use the card to buy alcohol or gambling products.

In their report, the researchers said they had "uncovered an overwhelming number of negative experiences" stemming from the card, ranging from feelings of "stigma, shame and frustration" to practical issues such as cardholders simply not having enough cash for essential items.

Sixty-seven per cent of survey participants reported they had no difficulty managing their money before being placed on income management.

"The qualitative interviews reveal mixed views on the cards and their costs and benefits," the report said.

"The minority view was that the introduction of the cards had been positive overall."

Not having access to cash was a huge concern to those on the card, the research found, as people struggled to buy second-hand goods.

In Hinkler, participants had complained about cards being declined at businesses and payment transfer problems.

Some participants reported sharpened thinking about budgeting, including recipients who had admitted overspending on alcohol.

The government is expected to release its own study of the scheme conducted by the University of Adelaide later this year.

Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt said he still believed many supported the cashless card.

"The Cashless Debit Card is a tough, but necessary, policy and the anecdotal feedback about the Hinkler trial has been positive," he said. 

"The study used a sample of 97 people who had directly experienced Income Management which represents just 0.2 percent of all Income Management participants in Australia. In comparison, the Orima evaluation, which conducted over 500 interviews of the then 2,100 CDC participants, represented 23 percent of participants.

"The report details examples of the positive impact both Income Management and the Cashless Debit Card has had on financial management of participants."

Mr Pitt said there were options available for those experiencing issues with using their cards.

"If people are having any issue with the use of their Cashless Debit Card they can contact the hotline on 1800 252 604, visit the shopfronts in Bundaberg or Hervey Bay to get one-on-one assistance or they visit the Department of Social Services website," he said. 

"The Hervey Bay Neighbourhood Centre and IMPACT Community Services have been selected to employ two additional full-time case managers to assist Cashless Debit Card holders access services including financial counselling, parenting programs, education and training."