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Social Security (Administration) Amendment (Income Management to Cashless Debit Card Transition) Bill 2019

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2019

 

 

 

 

THE PARLIAMENT OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

 

 

 

 

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCIAL SECURITY (ADMINISTRATION) AMENDMENT

(INCOME MANAGEMENT TO CASHLESS DEBIT CARD TRANSITION) BILL 2019

 

 

 

 

SUPPLEMENTARY EXPLANATORY MEMORANDUM

 

 

 

 

 

Amendments to be moved on behalf of the Government

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Circulated by the authority of the

Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston)



SOCIAL SECURITY (ADMINISTRATION) AMENDMENT

(INCOME MANAGEMENT TO CASHLESS DEBIT CARD TRANSITION) BILL 2019

 

 

OUTLINE

 

These amendments will reduce the scope of the Ministerial power to vary the restricted portion placed onto the Cashless Debit Card from 100 per cent to 80 per cent, exclude people of Age Pension age from being compulsory Cashless Debit Card participants in the Northern Territory and establish a power to terminate voluntary Income Management participant agreements in the Northern Territory.

 

 

Financial impact statement

 

These amendments have nil financial impact.

 

 

STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

 

The statement of compatibility with human rights appears at the end of this explanatory memorandum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



SOCIAL SECURITY (ADMINISTRATION) AMENDMENT

(INCOME MANAGEMENT TO CASHLESS DEBIT CARD TRANSITION) BILL 2019

 

NOTES ON AMENDMENTS

 

Amendment 1 amends section 123UO by inserting new subsection 3A.  New subsection 123UO(3A) provides that, if a voluntary income management agreement in relation to a person is in force, and the person’s usual place of residence is within the Northern Territory, then the Secretary may, by written notice given to the person, terminate the agreement.  New subsection 3A also clarifies that the termination takes effect on a day specified in the notice (which must not be earlier than the day on which the notice is given).

 

This amendment has the effect of ensuring that volunteers do not continue on Income Management in the Northern Territory after the roll out of the Cashless Debit Card in their community.  Volunteers who are terminated under this amendment will be invited to volunteer for the Cashless Debit Card.

 

Amendments 2, 3 and 4 insert the requirement that a person has not reached pension age into the trial participant criteria under subparagraphs 124PGE(1)(b), 124PGE(2)(b) and 124PGE(3)(b).  This will exclude Age Pension recipients in the Northern Territory from becoming compulsory trial participants.  This ensures consistency with existing Cashless Debit Card sites and prevents Age Pension recipients from being placed onto the Card without their agreement. 

 

Age Pension recipients will be able to volunteer for the Cashless Debit Card.  This is consistent with other Cashless Debit Card sites and will support existing Age Pension recipients on Income Management who wish to continue receiving financial management support.

 

Age Pension recipients will be placed onto the Cashless Debit Card in the Cape York region.  The Family Responsibilities Commission (FRC) does not support the exclusion of Age Pension recipients from becoming compulsory trial participants in the Cape York Region.  The FRC requested that this amendment not be made for the Cape York region on the basis that it may put people at risk of financial abuse in a vulnerable position.  The Government is committed to working with the FRC and other local stakeholders as part of the partnered approach to delivering welfare reform in the Cape York Region.

 

Amendments 5 and 7 amend the Ministerial power to vary the restricted and unrestricted portions by removing references to ‘100 per cent’ from the new subsections 124PJ(2A) and 124PJ(2B) (inserted by Item 39 of the Bill) and substituting it with references to ‘80 per cent.’  This power was included in the Bill because it replicates a power that currently exists under Income Management, that is, the Minister has the power to vary the restriction rate for Income Management participants between 50 and 100 per cent.  This power was inserted by the Social Security and Other Legislation Amendment (Welfare Reform and Reinstatement of Racial Discrimination Act) Act 2010

 

 

These amendments mean that the Minister’s power to vary the restricted portion will be reduced to a maximum of 80 per cent.  This change has been made to increase the consistency with existing Cashless Debit Card sites, which currently have a   maximum restricted portion of 80 per cent.

 

This power will only be exercised by the Minister in response to a community request.  Consistent with the approach of the measure introduced by the 2010 legislation, it is not appropriate to specify the requirements of this in legislation to ensure the format of these requests and the nature of any necessary engagement with the community following a request, is flexible to respond to the specific circumstances of that community.  For example, some communities may prefer to use a local Aboriginal corporation, local government organisation or other representative body to act on behalf of the community in making such a request.  

 

When considering a community request, the Minister will undertake necessary consultation before deciding whether to make an instrument varying the restricted portions. 

 

A notifiable instrument made under subsection 124PJ(2A) or 124PJ(2B) is not subject to disallowance.

 

Amendments 6 and 8 reflect amendments 5 and 7 by removing references to ‘including 0 per cent’. As the Minister will no longer have the power to increase the restricted portion to 100 per cent, the Minister will also be unable to vary the unrestricted portion to 0 per cent, as the unrestricted and restricted portions must total 100 per cent.

 

Amendments 9 and 10 insert ‘a decision to give a notice under subsection 123UO(3A)’ into subsection 127(4) and section 144 of the Social Security Administration Act 1999.  This amendment provides that the decision to terminate voluntary income managements in the Northern Territory is not reviewable by the Secretary or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

 

Excluding the decision to terminate a voluntary Income Management agreement with a participant in the Northern Territory from merits review is essential to ensure the cessation of Income Management in the Northern Territory.  If an individual wishes to continue receiving financial management support, they will be able to apply to be a voluntary participant for the purposes of the Cashless Debit Card.



STATEMENT OF COMPATIBILITY WITH HUMAN RIGHTS

Prepared in accordance with Part 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011

SOCIAL SERVICES LEGISLATION AMENDMENT

SOCIAL SECURITY (ADMINISTRATION) AMENDMENT (INCOME MANAGEMENT TO CASHLESS DEBIT CARD TRANSITION) BILL 2019

 

These amendments are compatible with the human rights and freedoms recognised or declared in the international instruments listed in section 3 of the Human Rights (Parliamentary Scrutiny) Act 2011 .

 

Overview of the Bill

 

This Bill sets out the transition of Income Management participants in the Northern Territory and Cape York region in Queensland onto the Cashless Debit Card and extends the end for existing Cashless Debit Card trial areas from 30 June 2020 to 30 June 2021, with the exception of Cape York, which has an end date of 31 December 2021.

 

These amendments will reduce the scope of the Ministerial power to vary the restricted portion placed onto the Cashless Debit Card from 100 per cent to 80 per cent, exclude people of Age Pension age from being compulsory Cashless Debit Card participants in the Northern Territory and establish a power to terminate voluntary Income Management participant agreements in the Northern Territory.

 

These measures will give further certainty to participating communities and will continue to improve outcomes for individuals and families in those communities.  

 

Human rights implications

 

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights conducted a review of the Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 , which notes that the Cashless Debit Card engages and limits three human rights: the right to social security, the right to a private life and the right to equality and non-discrimination.

 

These rights, and a number of other specific human rights, are addressed in turn below.

 

Objectives

 

The objectives of the Cashless Debit Card, set out in Part 3D of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (the Act), are to:

 

(a)   reduce the amount of certain restrictable payments available to be spent on alcoholic beverages, gambling and illegal drugs; and

(b)   determine whether such a reduction decreases violence or harm in the trial areas; and

(c)   determine whether such arrangements are more effective when community bodies are involved; and

(d)   encourage socially responsible behaviour.

 

In other words, the Cashless Debit Card trial has the objective of reducing immediate hardship and deprivation, reducing violence and harm, encouraging socially responsible behaviour, and reducing the likelihood that welfare payment recipients will remain on welfare and out of the workforce for extended periods of time.

 

The consumption of alcohol and drugs and partaking in gambling at harmful levels can negatively impact on a person’s ability to work and meet the needs of any children, and can lead to long-term welfare dependency.  The primary purpose of the Cashless Debit Card trial is to reduce harm at a community level from the use of harmful products such as alcohol, illicit drugs and gambling.  A flow-on impact of providing this tool to help address these issues is that participants are able to stabilise their lives, leading to an increased ability to participate in the workforce.

 

The first independent evaluation of the Cashless Debit Card Trial by ORIMA Research was released on 1 September 2017, and included results from the first two trial sites, Ceduna, South Australia, and the East Kimberley, Western Australia.  It found that the Cashless Debit Card has had a ‘considerable positive impact’ in the communities where it has operated.  The evaluation also concluded that the trial ‘has been effective in reducing alcohol consumption and gambling in both trial sites and [is] also suggestive of a reduction in the use of illegal drugs’, and ‘that there is some evidence that there has been a consequential reduction in violence and harm related to alcohol consumption, illegal drug use and gambling.’  Results found that 41 per cent of participants surveyed who drank alcohol reported drinking less frequently; 48 per cent of participants surveyed who used drugs reported using drugs less frequently; and 48 per cent of those who gambled before that trial reported gambling less often.

 

A baseline data collection in the Goldfields, Western Australia, undertaken by the University of Adelaide, was released on 21 February 2019.  The report measured socioeconomic conditions prior to the introduction of the card, and the community’s initial perceptions of the Cashless Debit Card immediately following implementation.  Many respondents reported a reduction in levels of substance misuse, a decrease in alcohol-related antisocial behaviour and crime, improvements in child welfare, and improvements in financial literacy and management.

 

The University of Adelaide is also currently undertaking a second impact evaluation of Ceduna, the East Kimberley, and the Goldfields, and a baseline data collection in the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region, Queensland.  This is in line with the Government’s commitment to ensure the Cashless Debit Card is meeting its objectives of promoting positive outcomes for communities and responsible spending of welfare money.

 

Extending the Cashless Debit Card for a further 12 months and transitioning Income Management participants in the Northern Territory and the Cape York area to the Cashless Debit Card trial will result in more communities experiencing positive outcomes and a reduction in the social harm caused by alcohol, drug and gambling misuse.

 

General safeguards

 

The Cashless Debit Card trial aims to support communities where high levels of welfare dependence coexist with high levels of social harm by limiting the amount of welfare payment available as cash in a community.  It does not affect people according to race, religion, ethnicity or any other factor.  It is not a punitive measure, nor is it designed to stigmatise people.  It aims to ensure that income support payments are spent in the best interests of welfare payment recipients and their dependents, and in line with community expectations.

 

A number of general safeguards that help to protect human rights have been incorporated into the operation of the Cashless Debit Card trial and the transition of Income Management participants onto the Cashless Debit Card trial in the Northern Territory.

 

Firstly, the rollout of the Cashless Debit Card has been and continues to be the subject of an extensive community consultation and engagement process. 

 

The Department of Social Services (DSS) has held several information sessions throughout the Northern Territory in preparation for the transition and consulted with key community leaders and organisations to provide initial information about the Cashless Debit Card and seek guidance about the most appropriate way to consult with the broader community.  The information sessions focused on providing communities with an understanding of the Cashless Debit Card product, how it operates, and how the card is different in both policy and function to the BasicsCard in the Income Management regime.

 

Secondly, following the first initial independent, comprehensive evaluation of the first two Cashless Debit Card trial areas, the Government is conducting a second evaluation of the Cashless Debit Card trial across the first three trial sites, to assess the ongoing effectiveness of the trial.  This will continue to build on initial results and further develop a rigorous evidence base for the Cashless Debit Card.  It will draw on data and methodology developed as part of the Goldfields baseline data collection, and utilise data collected through program monitoring. Findings from the second evaluation will be published in late 2019.

 

The right to social security

 

Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognises ‘ the right of everyone to social security, including social insurance ’.  The United Nations Committee of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the UN Committee) has stated that implementing this right requires a country, within its maximum available resources, to provide ‘ a minimum essential level of benefits to all individuals and families that will enable them to acquire at least essential health care, basic shelter and housing, water and sanitation, foodstuffs, and the most basic form of education ’. 

 

Across all Cashless Debit Card trial areas, the right to social security is limited only in the participant’s ability to use a proportion of their payment to purchase harmful goods, in an area where there are demonstrated high levels of community harm.  In targeted communities, support from leaders is driven by the view that the Cashless Debit Card trial can help address this harm, particularly where dependence is also high.

 

These amendments do not detract from the eligibility of a person to receive welfare, nor reduce the amount of a person’s social security entitlement.  Rather, there is a limitation on how payments can be spent and provides a mechanism to ensure that certain recipients of social security entitlements are restricted from spending money on alcohol, gambling and drugs.

 

Further, the Bill does not introduce a new area to welfare quarantining arrangements.  Rather, the Bill transitions the Northern Territory and Cape York area from Income Management to the Cashless Debit Card and extends the Cashless Debit Card in existing sites for a further 12 months. 

 

Under both the Income Management regime and the Cashless Debit Card trial, portions of social security payments received by a participant are quarantined, and the participant is unable to purchase restricted goods or withdraw cash using this portion.  Income Management participants have between 50 and 90 per cent of their payment quarantined, according to the participant’s specific measure. 

 

Participants transitioning from the Income Management regime to the Cashless Debit Card trial will get to keep their existing quarantine rate.  The benefits of the Cashless Debit Card program include a more streamlined approach to welfare quarantining, the use of improved technology, and fewer restrictions on purchases that allow participants to shop from a wide variety of sellers, including online retailers, thereby increasing a participant’s ability to spend their welfare payments to meet their essential needs.

 

Businesses that sell restricted items can serve participants where they have systems in place that do not allow for the sale of such products to holders of a Cashless Debit Card.  These limitations are necessary to ensure that restricted products cannot be purchased with the restrictable portion of a participant’s social security payment.  Without the diversion of social security payments into a restricted bank account, welfare quarantining would not be possible and the objectives of the Cashless Debit Card, outlined above, could not be met.

 

The restricted bank account functions like a standard, mainstream bank account.  This serves to minimise restrictions on the way social security is received.  The Cashless Debit Card itself is a standard Visa debit card that can be used at the majority of merchants that accept EFTPOS payments.  The account allows for a range of flexible payment options including online transfers, BPAY, online shopping and recurring deductions.  As well as accessing these services online, a mobile application has been developed for use on smartphones.  There are also two hotline services operated by the card provider and DSS to provide technical and practical support for participants.

 

Given the objectives of the Cashless Debit Card trial, the prevalence of social harm in the areas these schemes operate, any limitation on the right to social security is reasonable and proportionate.

 

The right to a private life

 

The impact of the trial on the right to a private life and privacy has previously been raised.

 

Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights sets out the right to a private life.  It prohibits arbitrary or unlawful interferences with an individual’s privacy, family, correspondence or home.

 

The Cashless Debit Card program seeks to achieve the legitimate objective of reducing immediate hardship and deprivation, reducing violence and harm, encouraging socially responsible behaviour, and reducing the likelihood that welfare payment recipients will be subject to harassment and abuse in relation to their welfare payments.

 

By reducing a person’s choice in how and where they access and spend their social security payments, the Cashless Debit Card limits the right to a private life.  The Cashless Debit Card trial is targeted to communities where high levels of welfare dependence exist alongside high levels of social harm. 

 

This limitation on the right to a private life is directly related to the objectives of reducing such harm.  This is because the limitations put in place restrict transactions at businesses selling goods that contribute to such harm.  Therefore, the limitation that is placed on the right to a private life with the Cashless Debit Card is directly related to improving the welfare of the recipient and any dependents.

 

The Cashless Debit Card trial also engages the right to privacy.  Section 124PN of the Act allows the disclosure of information to the Secretary by a financial institution.  Section 124PN does not provide a blanket exemption from privacy laws.  It merely allows the sharing of information necessary for the operation and evaluation of the Cashless Debit Card trial.  As a result, there are still safeguards in place to protect individual privacy.  Any information collected by DSS or Services Australia will be protected information that is subject to the secrecy provisions in the Act.  Both Government and the card provider are required to act in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 , more generally, and the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs).  The APPs set out strict rules around how personal information can be used.  For example, they prohibit the disclosure of personal information for direct marketing.  Notably, under the Cashless Debit Card, the Government cannot see what items or products people are purchasing, only the merchants in which the money is being spent.

 

The section seeks to enable the Cashless Debit Card trial to achieve a legitimate objective and are necessary for the trial to operate and be evaluated effectively.  In order to establish bank accounts for participants, Services Australia must transfer customer information to the card provider.  The card provider in turn provides new account details back to Services Australia.  While the Cashless Debit Card trial is operating, the card provider must also transfer information about participants to DSS.  DSS uses this information to run and evaluate the program. Without this sharing of information, new accounts cannot be set up and so the Cashless Debit Card trial could not proceed.

 

Proposed sections 124POA to 124POD of the Bill expand the existing disclosure provisions for the disclosure of information under Income Management to the Cashless Debit Card trial provisions.  The purpose of disclosures by the Secretary under these provisions is to ensure that the Cashless Debit Card trial is properly administered and appropriate information can be shared about a participant to provide protective support.

 

Any limitation on a person’s right to privacy is reasonable and proportionate given the extensive social harm discussed above under the section titled ‘Objectives’.  There are also effective community safeguards over the extent of the restrictions imposed. 

 

The rights of equality and non-discrimination

 

The rights of equality and non-discrimination are provided for in a number of the seven core international human rights treaties to which Australia is a party, most relevantly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (the CERD).  In particular, article 5 of the CERD requires parties ‘ to prohibit and eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as  to race, colour or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of’ the right to… ‘social security and social services’ (article 5(e)(iv)). 

 

Discrimination is impermissible differential treatment among persons or groups that results in a person or a group being treated less favourably than others, based on a prohibited ground for discrimination, such as race.  However, the UN Human Rights Committee has recognised that ‘ not every differentiation of treatment will constitute discrimination, if the criteria for such differentiation are reasonable and objective, and if the aim is to achieve a purpose which is legitimate under the Covenant’

 

The rights to equality and non-discrimination are not directly limited by the Cashless Debit Card.  The program is not applied on the basis of race or cultural factors.  Locations for the program have been chosen based on objective criteria.  This includes high levels of welfare dependence and community harm, as well as the outcomes of comprehensive community consultation.

 

Anyone residing in locations where the Cashless Debit Card trial operates, receiving a payment and being of a certain age as specified by instrument or legislation, will become a Cashless Debit Card trial participant.  The Cashless Debit Card trial is therefore not targeted at people of a particular race, but to welfare recipients who meet particular criteria.  In addition, this Bill extends the operation of the Cashless Debit Card in existing sites and introduces the Cashless Debit Card into the Northern Territory and Cape York area where welfare quarantining arrangements are already in place.

 

Right to be free from self-incrimination

 

Article 14(3)(g) of the ICCPR protects the right of an individual to be free from self-incrimination in the determination of a criminal charge by providing that a person may not be compelled to testify against him or herself or confess guilt.  The privilege against self-incrimination may be subject to permissible limits.  Any limitations must be for a legitimate objective and be reasonable, necessary and proportionate to that objective.  The right to privilege against self-incrimination can be revoked where a statutory body is authorised to compel individuals to produce information, which may incriminate that individual.

 

The proposed amendment to paragraph 192(db), to extend the powers to Part 3D of the Act, seeks to achieve the legitimate objective of investigating the operation of the Cashless Debit Card including to determine whether a person is or should be a Cashless Debit Card participant or how payments are administered.  There is not a less restrictive investigative technique available that provides the same information-gathering purpose and requiring trial participants to provide information voluntarily is unlikely to be effective. Compelling a person to provide information under this section is reasonably capable of achieving the stated aim of investigating the effective operation of welfare payments and the Cashless Debit Card trial.  Section 197A excludes information given on a compulsory basis from being admissible in criminal proceedings (except for proceedings in respect of giving false or misleading information).

 

Items 43 and 46 of the Bill operates to limit the right to be free from self-incrimination by expressly removing the privilege against self-incrimination in relation to the production or disclosure of information specific to the trial or voluntary participant.  This is necessary to ensure that DSS can check the records (required to be kept by law) to verify that a person is receiving whole or part of certain welfare payments and therefore subject to welfare quarantining under the Act.  Allowing a claim of privilege in relation to such information would be contrary to the purpose of the legislation, as the production of this disclosed information is directly relevant to the operations of Part 3D under the Act.  These provisions are in place to ensure the due performance of functions or exercise of powers provided for under legislation, and also ensure that a proper transition from Income Management to the Cashless Debit Card can be adequately and appropriately implemented.  

 

Items 43 and 46 of the Bill also provide for collection, storage, use or disclosure of other personal information, removing the privilege against self-incrimination which represents a loss of personal liberty for a welfare recipient whose information (whether they are a trial participant or voluntary participant) is shared between the Secretary and community bodies, the Queensland Commission (presently the Family Responsibilities Commission), child protection officer of the Northern Territory, or officers or employees of a recognised State/Territory authority of the Northern Territory. 

 

The limitations discussed above are reasonable, necessary and proportionate to achieving the objectives of the Cashless Debit Card trial as they enable the Secretary to ascertain the fact regarding the circumstances of trial participants.  By modifying the application of the privilege against self-incrimination, the Bill ensures that it is the public interest to properly transition Income Management participants onto the Cashless Debit Card, and to improve their financial management practices more generally.

 

The right to self-determination

 

Article 1 of the ICESCR states that ‘ all peoples have the right of self-determination.  By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development ’. 

 

Under the Cashless Debit Card trial, people are able to spend their restricted funds on any goods or services except alcohol, gambling and illicit drugs due to having less access to discretionary cash.  The limitation on these products and services ensures that vulnerable people are protected from abuse of these substances, and any associated harm and violence.  In addition, the transition from Income Management to the Cashless Debit Card trial offers more opportunities for participants to spend their quarantined welfare payments, for example by allowing the use of online shopping.

 

The transition of Income Management participants to the Cashless Debit Card trial will not impact on or interfere with a person’s right to pursue freely their economic, social or cultural development. 

 

The right to an adequate standard of living

 

Article 11(1) of the ICESCR states that everyone has the right to ‘ an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions ’ and that ‘ appropriate steps ’ be taken to ‘ ensure realisation of this right ’.  Further to this, article 11(2) of the ICESCR states that ‘ measures, including specific programmes ,’ should be taken in ‘ recognising the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger ’. 

 

The Cashless Debit Card trial does not limit the right to an adequate standard of living for affected people.  Under the Cashless Debit Card trial, people are able to use restricted funds to access any goods and services with the exception of alcohol and gambling products, or ‘cash-like’ products that could be used to obtain alcoholic beverages or gambling, with the aim of reducing abuse of these goods and services and associated harm and violence.  The Cashless Debit Card trial does not restrict a person’s access to the essential goods and services required to maintain an adequate standard of living.  Access to some discretionary cash is available to ensure that people can still participate in cash economies to purchase items that contribute to an adequate standard of living.

 

The rights of children

 

By ensuring that a portion of welfare payments is available to cover essential goods and services, welfare quarantining through the use of a Cashless Debit Card can improve living conditions for the children of welfare recipients.  An independent evaluation conducted by ORIMA Research in 2017 showed that the Cashless Debit Card trial had a considerable positive impact in reducing the harms related to the misuse of alcohol, drugs and gambling.  The evaluation also found several widespread spill-over benefits, including 40 per cent of the participants surveyed were better able to look after their children and 45 per cent were better able to save money.  There was also a decrease in requests for emergency food relief and financial assistance in Ceduna and merchants reported in increased purchases of baby food, clothing and other goods for children.

 

In 2018, DSS commissioned the Future of Employment and Skills Research Centre (FES) at the University of Adelaide to undertake an independent collection of baseline data from trial participants to allow an assessment of the conditions in the Goldfields region around the time of the rollout of the Cashless Debit Card program.  The findings of participants taking part in the study reported positive impacts relating to improvements in child welfare and wellbeing.  These improvements in child wellbeing were as a result of the changes in spending patterns with the introduction of the Cashless Debit Card, which led to children in the region having an increase in the provision of food, being suitability clothed in and out of school, improved access to toys such as bikes and scooters as well as having better general health and hygiene attributable to receiving access to vital medical treatment.

 

Therefore, measures used to restrict payment spent on alcohol, drugs and gambling by each participant on the Cashless Debit Card trial can be used to advance the right of children to the highest attainable standard of health and the right of children to adequate standards of living (articles 24, 26 and 27 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, respectively).

 

Conclusion

 

The Bill is compatible with human rights.  The extension of the Cashless Debit Card trial and the transition of participants on Income Management to the Cashless Debit Card will advance the protection of human rights by ensuring that welfare payments are spent in the best interests of welfare recipients and their dependents by restricting spending on alcohol, drugs and gambling.

 

To the extent that the Bill will limit human rights, those limitations are reasonable, necessary and proportionate to achieving the objectives of the welfare quarantining measures.  The Cashless Debit Card program aims to reduce immediate hardship and deprivation, reduce violence and harm, encourage socially responsible behaviour, and reduce the likelihood that welfare payment recipients will remain on welfare and out of the workforce for extended periods of time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Circulated by the authority of the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston