The Department of Social Services (DSS) commissioned the Future of Employment and Skills Research Centre (FES) to undertake the independent collection of baseline data from trial participants and other relevant stakeholders to allow an assessment of the conditions within the Goldfields around the time of the introduction of the CDC. This report details the findings arising from the qualitative baseline data collection. Following a comprehensive stakeholder engagement strategy, in-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 66 stakeholder representatives and 64 CDC participants across the different CDC site locations in the Goldfields. As the findings presented in this report arise from qualitative research, they are therefore subject to limitation in their generalisability to broader population groups.

Developed in close consultation with local community and Indigenous leaders, local and state government agencies, the Australian Government has implemented a Cashless Debit Card (CDC) for income support payments (ISPs) in multiple locations where high levels of welfare dependence coexist with high levels of social harm underpinned by alcohol, drug use and gambling.

The CDC aims to reduce the levels of harm associated with alcohol consumption, illicit drug use and gambling by limiting participants’ access to cash and by restricting the purchase of alcohol or gambling products. In early 2016, the CDC commenced in two communities across Australia - Ceduna in South Australia and Kununurra and Wyndham in Western Australia.

In the 2017-18 Budget, the Government announced its intention to expand the CDC to two new locations. The Goldfields region in Western Australia was selected as one of the new expansion sites following support for the card in the region. The CDC has been progressively rolling out in the Goldfields region since March 2018.

Key Findings:

  • Many CDC participants and some stakeholders suggested that the CDC be better targeted at those with alcohol and drug issues and/or whom neglected their children.
  • The CDC was especially considered to be not suitable for people with disability and their carers, as their disability often prevented them from being able to successfully engage with the CDC system.
  • The card was also felt to be unsuitable for people with mental health issues as a result of the stress created by CDC processes or the stigma associated with being on the card was reported to be adversely exacerbating their condition.
  • Disappointment was expressed by many respondents that the promised funding for wraparound services to support the implementation of the CDC in the Goldfields had not materialised. Several participants also commented that they had not been provided information about existing services that were available to support people on the CDC.
  • Only a minority of respondents reported that the CDC was having impacts on the uptake of employment and training.



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