Opinion Piece Kalgoorlie Miner

13/1/2016

A trial of a cashless debit card for welfare payments in Leonora and Laverton would only happen with the support of local elders.  

The idea of trialling the card in these communities came about when some local elders met with me in despair, after tragedy struck with a number of youth suicides in the area.  

A solution is needed to stop the alcohol, drug and gambling abuse that sadly takes place in some communities, and this card could be it.

I was fortunate when the Assistant Minister for Social Services Alan Tudge visited my electorate just before Christmas to speak to community leaders in Leonora and Laverton about the potential trial of the card.

We had constructive dialogue with the leaders and Shire councillors from the communities and it will be up to them if they want to take this proposal further. 

The Federal Government is already trialling the card in East Kimberley and in Ceduna, South Australia.

The healthy welfare card is just like any other debit card, however, it can’t be used to withdraw cash or to purchase alcohol or gambling products.  

All other merchants in Australia would be able to accept payments made with the healthy welfare card.

Eighty per cent of all regular payments and 100 per cent of arrears payments and lump payments would be placed onto the card. 

If the local community is chosen for a trial, a support package will be announced together with the trial to help address addiction, dependence on alcohol or drugs, and help people with financial management.

For example, in Ceduna, a new mobile outreach team will be on duty 24/7 so vulnerable people get the help they need.

Nearby, a new 12-bed residential rehabilitation service is being funded and the Government is providing extra funding for drug and alcohol case management and outreach services in the region along with extra funding for family violence services.

Business development and training opportunities are being provided as well as assistance with financial management and transitional support.

If the trial goes ahead in Laverton and Leonora, it is hoped the domestic violence rates, hospitalization rates from assaults, crime and suicides – fuelled by alcohol, drug and gambling abuse – will come down.   

The Federal Government will have a complete, independent evaluation of all the trials, which will inform our decisions going forward. 

Any decision to go further in Leonora and Laverton is now in the hands of the local community elders and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. 

However, I am fully supportive of a healthy welfare card trial as the Federal Member representing the area. 

Rick Wilson MP
Federal Member for O’Connor

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