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Australian Government looking into expansion of the Cashless Debit Card to help reduce welfare-fuelled alcohol abuse

Australian Government looking into expansion of the Cashless Debit Card to help reduce welfare fuelled alcohol abuse

 Featured image: www.cashlessdebitcard.org.au

The Turnbull Government yesterday introduced legislation into the Parliament to enable the expansion of the Cashless Debit Card to new regions.

The Cashless Debit Card has been designed to help disadvantaged communities decrease the level of consumption of drugs, alcohol and gambling which impacts on the health and wellbeing of communities, families and children.

In the 2017-18 Budget, the Government announced it was extending the card in the two current sites of Ceduna, South Australia, and the East Kimberley, Western Australia, and additionally would expand the card into two new regions.

The Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017 gives effect to these Budget measures. The two new communities for the Card will be announced in the coming months.

The first independent evaluation of the Cashless Debit Card by ORIMA Research concluded that “overall, the [trial] has been effective to date… in particular, the trial has been effective in reducing alcohol consumption, illegal drug use and gambling – establishing a clear ‘proof-of-concept’.”

The Report outlines key results across the two trial sites including:

  • Alcohol – on average, of trial participants surveyed who reported that they do drink alcohol, 25% of participants and 13% of family members reported drinking alcohol less frequently, whilst 25% of participants reported engaging in binge drinking less frequently.
  • Gambling – on average, of trial participants surveyed who reported they do gamble, 32% of participants and 15% of family members reported gambling less.
  • Drug use – on average, of trial participants surveyed who reported using illegal drugs before the trial commenced, 24% reported using illegal drugs less often.
  • In addition, the evaluation data states a significant proportion (31%) of the participants surveyed indicated they had been better able to care for children and save more money.

The final evaluation by ORIMA Research is due to be delivered to Government and released publicly in the coming weeks.

The positive results of the Card has led a number of other communities from across Australia requesting the Card be implemented in their region.

This Bill will help the Government reduce welfare-fuelled alcohol abuse while maintaining a strong safety net for vulnerable Australians.

Minister for Human Services, Alan Tudge, said the proposed Bill provides flexibility to communities and responds to calls for more ways to address social harm.

“Many local leaders around the country have shown interest in having the Card in their community. There is a sense of urgency from these leaders who want action to address the devastating impact of alcohol, drugs and gambling on their people,” Minister Tudge said.

“The Card is not a panacea but the evaluation indicates it’s helping reduce alcohol and drug consumption, and gambling. Very few other initiatives have had such impact.”

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