GREY CARD: Indue's cashless welfare card used in Ceduna and East Kimberley.
GREY CARD: Indue's cashless welfare card used in Ceduna and East Kimberley.

Would you be ashamed to use the cashless welfare card?

In the fourth and final part of the NewsMail's series on the cashless welfare card, we look at the social impact.

THE social impact of the introduction of cashless welfare cards in Bundaberg is one of the top concerns raised by residents - but are their fears founded?

Member for Hinkler Keith Pitt wants to build community support for bringing the scheme here.

Mr Pitt said he believed such a change was worth it, to get people off drugs and ready for work, and to make sure kids are being fed and welfare is being spent on the right priorities.

Under the scheme, 80% of some welfare recipients' benefits are paid to a special account which cannot be used to buy alcohol, gamble or withdraw cash.

In Ceduna, SA, and East Kimberley, WA, the cashless card trial sites, people receiving welfare did buy more fruit and vegetables than they did previously.

But Member for Bundaberg Leanne Donaldson, an ardent opponent of cashless welfare cards, said the trial in Ceduna had coincided with a rise in homelessness, and that promised support services had not been delivered.

SA Greens upper house MP Tammy Franks agreed. "Where's the promised rehabilitation facility?" she said.

Ms Franks said Ceduna residents had told her their cards had been declined while paying bills, buying groceries and registering cars.

The Federal Government did spend $2.6 million on social services, including an outreach service and financial counselling, in Ceduna and East Kimberley.

"They tell me they are offered deals outside the local supermarket to use another person's card to buy their groceries by those looking to get around the restrictions on buying alcohol," Ms Franks said.

"Imagine also the shame of doing your groceries and having to leave them at the checkout when a card the government is propping up with public money says no ... not because you don't have the money in your account, but because this card often doesn't work and you've got no other option."

Ms Donaldson was also worried about a lack of privacy for users, the community panels that oversee the system were secretive and the scheme would increase social isolation and poverty.

"The card imposes restrictions on people that are not equitable with other members of society," she said.

The NewsMail understands users would be issued a special card linked to an account containing quarantined income while the cash component would be deposited into their existing accounts.

In the trials, those cards were provided by private company Indue, which also holds the accounts connected to quarantined incomes.

The cards have become known in the trial sites as "grey cards".

One person who shares Ms Donaldson's concerns about Indue's terms and conditions is Bundaberg woman Tracey Smith, who has been sharing them online.

"Everybody should be reading the terms and conditions of the Indue card," Ms Smith said.

"No free Australian should be forced into a financial product or service that they feel will worsen their financial position."

Research into the trials by independent research Orima found 49% of people on the cashless card said it had made their lives worse while 46% said they had encountered problems using the card.

But 46% of non-participants in the trial sites said it had made life in the area better - only 18% thought it had made life worse.

It also found 86% of the 32,237 failed transactions between April and September were due to user error or insufficient funds.

Interestingly, Orima found only 6% of participants felt shame or stigma when using the card.

Durack MP Melissa Price, whose electorate includes East Kimberley said the card wasn't popular with everyone but the government had to make decisions to improve people's lives.

"If we don't make changes, nothing changes," Ms Price said.

At 4pm today, Ms Donaldson's petition against the card had more than 500 signatures while Mr Pitt's in support had more than 100.

Click here to read Indue's terms and conditions.

Click here to sign Keith Pitt's petition.

Click here to sign Leanne Donaldson's petition.



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