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Cashless Welfare Card for WA Goldfields

The Turnbull Government will roll out the Cashless Debit Card in the WA Goldfields following support for the card from community leaders in the region and the positive findings of the independent final evaluation.

The Goldfields will be the third region, in addition to Ceduna and the East Kimberley, and the first in the expansion of the card following its successful trial and will be introduced with reforms to support local services to deliver improved health and social outcomes.

The Cashless Debit Card is a world-first in the way welfare payments are delivered. The final independent evaluation of the trials of the card showed that it had “considerable positive impact” in the communities in which it operated, in particular in reducing alcohol, drug use and gambling.

Over 270 consultations have been conducted in the Goldfields region since May. The initial discussions in the Goldfields about the Cashless Debit Card began in early 2016. Many stakeholders have indicated their desperation to address the very significant harm caused by welfare-fuelled alcohol abuse in the region. Some noted that children feel safer on the streets than in their homes.

Western Australian police data indicates that the domestic and non-domestic assault rate in the Goldfields is more than twice the state average. Alcohol is a factor in two thirds of all domestic assaults (2009-2013) and half of all non-domestic assaults.  Alcohol-related hospitalisations and death rate in the region is 25% higher than the state average (2007-2011).

The card will be introduced in the Goldfields from early 2018.  Around 3,400 people who are working age income support recipients will receive the card. As is currently the case in Ceduna and the East Kimberley, age pension or veterans’ pension recipients may volunteer to opt-in.

Eighty per cent of total welfare payments will be placed onto a recipient’s Cashless Debit Card, while 20 per cent will continue to go into their existing savings account.

The region has extensive drug and alcohol and other services already in place, including over 50 federally funded services. The Western Australian Government is also funding a new residential rehabilitation centre, which will be opening in Kalgoorlie this month.

Based on the experience in the trials in Ceduna and East Kimberley, it is not expected that there will be a material increase in demand for services. However, the Government will monitor this closely.

To ensure that people can navigate and access the services if they require it, the Government will provide funding for new service coordinator positions. This responds directly to feedback from the community.

Given the concerns with the well-being of children, the Government will also provide funding of more than $1 million over three years to ensure that Goldfields children and families have well-targeted, coordinated, effective services. We will work with the Western Australian Government and the local community over the coming weeks to work out how best to do this.

There will be additional resources provided to transition people onto the card. This will include budget and financial planning support, which proved to be important and useful in the trial sites.

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