“The Goldfields now has an opportunity to break the cycle of welfare dependency, alcohol abuse and decades of generational disadvantage”
THE federal government has announced it will extend the Goldfields’ Cashless Debit Card trial for a further 12 months as part of its ongoing commitment to providing recipients with an effective system to manage their welfare payments.
The extension is part of the government’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook and will continue until June 30, 2020.
Federal Member for O’Connor Rick Wilson said the Cashless Debit Card was having a positive impact in the Goldfields, with its introduction being linked to a reduction in violent crime, excessive alcohol consumption and illegal drug use.
“The latest crime figures from the WA Police for the enire Goldfields are very encouraging,” Mr Wilson said.
“In Laverton, assaults are down by around 30 per cent; burglary and property damage crimes have been significantly reduced in Leonora, while Kalgoorlie is witnessing some of the lowest theft and fraud incidents for many, many years.
“I have engaged with countless people who have told me “the card has helped turn their life around” and received plenty of positive feedback from community leaders, as well as retailers who have reported that disturbances around their premises have diminished.
“The most recent evidence shows the Cashless Debit Card is working to effect community-wide change. People are spending less money on drinking, gambling and drugs and more money on essentials such as food and looking after their children.”
Minister for Families and Social Services Paul Fletcher said the government is extending the Cashless Debit Card because independent evaluation released late last year from the card’s two initial trial sites, Ceduna (SA) and the East Kimberley, have shown some dramatic changes in behaviour.
“Forty-one per cent of participants surveyed who drank alcohol, reported drinking less frequently, 48 per cent who used drugs said they were using them far less, while 48 per cent who gambled before the trial reported gambling less often,” Mr Fletcher said.
“Leaders in the trial communities continue to ask for the trial to be extended and become a permanent policy arrangement.
“The government has listened and supports their efforts to improve lives and reduce social harms caused by alcohol, gambling and drug misuse.”
Mr Wilson said that by maintaining the current Cashless Debit Card initiative and committing to consult on further improvements, he believed the federal government is effecting real change in the Goldfields.
“This momentum must be kept going, as the Goldfields now has a great opportunity to break the cycle of welfare dependency, alcohol abuse and decades of generational disadvantage.
“However, I would like to reiterate that the Cashless Debit Card card cannot fix everything and that increased policing and community safety plans have also contributed to making the Goldfields safer.
“Also, to insinuate that only people on welfare commit crime is not only incorrect, but offensive to participants, many of whom have no other option but to be on welfare at this moment in time.”