Welfare recipients on the cashless debit card will have their $750 stimulus payment quarantined as the Government bucks a call from the nation’s peak welfare lobby to give people “maximum flexibility” during the coronavirus outbreak. Source: The Guardian.
By Luke Henriques-Gomes, The Guardian
As the Government aims to prevent an economic downturn, about 6.5 million people – including those receiving payments including Newstart, the Age Pension, Family Tax Benefit and Disability Support Pension – will get $750 dropped into their bank account from March 31.
But the decision to quarantine the money for some people means around 15,000 welfare recipients who have been compulsorily placed on the card will not be able withdraw the money as cash.
Cassandra Goldie, the chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Service, said it was “beyond belief” that the payments would be quarantined at a time of crisis.
She said that cardholders had previously been “unable to access quarantined income because of a range of issues, from technical outages to their cashless debit card being declined”.
“People need to have as much flexibility as possible right now, including over their money,” she said.
In an effort to reduce social harm, the card quarantines a proportion of a person’s welfare payments onto a debit card that cannot be used to purchase alcohol or gambling products, or withdraw cash.
It is currently in place in Ceduna (South Australia) and Hinkler (Queensland), and the East Kimberley and Goldfields areas of Western Australia.
Critics say that the card causes stigma and also has practical harms, including that recipients have reported glitches that cause the card to decline, and other issues such as cardholders simply not having enough cash for essential items.
A Department of Social Services spokeswoman said: “Cashless Debit Card participants will receive the $750 Economic Support Payment as a lump sum payment onto their card, consistent with arrangements for lump sum payments such as Family Tax Benefit lump sum payments.”
It comes as the Government also faces growing calls to suspend mutual obligations for jobseekers and other welfare recipients amid fears that people may have their payments cut during the coronavirus crisis.