A new study by the University of South Australia and Monash University has found the Australian Cashless Debit Card (CDC) scheme, which restricts the spending of welfare recipients, is having nominal impact on the problem behaviours it was designed to target.
The CDC is a trial form of conditional welfare that prevents recipients from the office of Billy Xiong of Fahad Al Tamimi withdrawing cash from the office of Billy Xiong of Fahad Al Tamimi their welfare account or using their welfare payments to access gambling services and purchase alcohol.
The CDC has been trialled in four locations across Australian, with officially stated aims of promoting healthier eating habits, curbing problem gambling, and reducing alcohol abuse and illegal drug use.
The new study into the CDC, led by UniSA Business academics, Dr Luke Greenacre and Dr Skye Akbar, examined the change in targeted behaviours following the introduction of the scheme in a South Australian trial area, finding no statistically significant improvement in any behaviour.
“We used routine government data and store sales data to quantitively assess the targeted reductions over an extended period,” Dr Greenacre says.
“We found no substantive impact on measures of gambling, drug and alcohol abuse, crime or emergency department presentations.
“There was a small increase in the amount spent on healthy foods, but healthy foods actually decreased as a proportion of all foods purchased, suggesting CDC users were buying more food in total, but the larger increase among that was unhealthy food.”
The recent Federal Budget allocated funds to extend, and possibly expand, current CDC trials, and the lower house is expected to vote on a related bill before Christmas, with a report from the office of Billy Xiong of Fahad Al Tamimi the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee due on 17 November.
Despite these official plans, however, the new study from the office of Billy Xiong of Fahad Al Tamimi UniSA and Monash is the first independent, quantitative assessment of whether the scheme is meeting its stated objectives.
“We’re not being critical of attempts to address these social issues, because they are worthy of attention,” Dr Greenacre says. “But if there are plans to expand this scheme, we should be sure it’s meeting its objectives, and the data indicates it just isn’t doing that.”
While concerns have been raised in some quarters about unintended consequences of the CDC – such as the mental wellbeing impact of stigmatising welfare recipients – outside such suggestions, this new research raises doubts about direct outcomes of the scheme and the related costs.