The Forrest Review was commissioned in 2014 by the Prime Minister. It contains 27 recommendations that represent an interdependent and comprehensive package of measures to address the many and varied barriers to parity.
Over the last two decades, attempts to stem passive welfare have been underpinned by well-meaning governments but spread too thinly across thousands of programs without the required support or accountability. Without an all-of-government long-term strategy, the disparity will continue and it is in this context that the recommendations in The Forrest Review must be implemented in their entirety and not cherry-picked. None of the recommendations are effective if delivered in isolation or as a short-term experiment.
The good news is that there are existing leverage points available right now within communities, the market and governments that we can use better to end the disparity.
From an economic perspective, the value of this investment is proven conclusively. From a social perspective, it provides the wrap-around services that are required to support vulnerable Australians. The Australian welfare system is designed to be a short-term safety net, not a way of life; we must therefore reduce the need for people to come into contact with it.
The Forrest Review focused on the disparity that exists for Indigenous people. However, some of the recommendations were made in a broader context as a mechanism for all Australians. Recommendation 5: The Healthy Welfare Card, is currently being trialled for working age welfare recipients after the Bill was passed in 2015 with bi-partisan support. The Federal Government is now responsible for the implementation and facilitation of what is being delivered as the Cashless Debit Card and the trials are currently underway in Ceduna, SA and Kununurra, WA.
The very nature of a trial is to uncover practical and technical issues and our team are monitoring this very closely. We will continue to liaise with community members, the government and all stakeholders to ensure the efficacy of the Cashless Debit Card. This will be done by holding to the notion that the right support services must be in place and information and help must be readily available. If there are problems, we will address them.
The Forrest Review identified that our education system is failing those children most in need, and that the right of every child to an education must take priority when it comes to eliminating Indigenous disparity within Australia.
Across the country, school attendance and academic achievement are consistently worse for Indigenous Australian children when compared with any other group. From birth, the statistics show that Indigenous children start from behind and, without a concerted and dedicated effort, will stay there for life. Low education levels make it difficult to secure employment, and when social security payments are almost as attractive as low wages, intergenerational dependency becomes the norm.
Education is the key to employment and a powerful tool in self-determination. If we get early childhood development and school education right, the long-term benefits will help break the cycle of poverty and disempowerment.
Recommendation 2 of Creating Parity states that governments must work together to improve school attendance and be measured and accountable to the public for their success. Part of the recommendation advocates that school attendance be introduced as a mutual obligation to receiving the Family Tax Benefit (FTB).
The FTB is a payment designed to assist parents with the cost of raising children. Among other details, Creating Parity recommends the amendment of the FTB application form to ensure that parents understand their obligations extend to ensuring their children attend school, and that unexplained absences result in a payment reduction.
As payment of the FTB is administered by the Commonwealth, and given that State Governments manage schools including holding attendance data, application of the recommendation will require support from all tiers of Government. Minderoo is strongly encouraging the Government to roll out a trial of the ‘No School, No Pay’.
The Cashless Debit Card is not a recommendation plucked from thin air; our existing initiatives around employment and early childhood are established, successful programs with clear links to broader social policy. Our goal is to improve the lives of vulnerable people by empowering them with jobs, access to quality early childhood education and an opportunity to break out of the welfare cycle. This wrap around approach tackles the poverty cycle from all angles. The Cashless Debit Card is just one of these measures.
For more information about the progress of the trial, see the following Report: https://www.mhs.gov.au/sites/g/files/net1006/f/cashless-debit-card-trial-data.pdf
“In every state and territory there are suburbs in large prosperous cities where intergenerational welfare is endemic and people are disengaged from work and education. For this reason, I suggest the key changes should have national application” Andrew Forrest
|Will my Cashless Debit Card work at the shops?||There will be no change to the amount of your payment. You can use the Cashless Debit Card to buy groceries, toys, petrol and clothes etc at most shops across Australia. Instead of paying with cash, you pay with card.|
|Will I still have access to cash?||Twenty percent of your payment will be available and paid into your normal bank account that can be withdrawn as cash. If you need assistance with managing your finances, it is available.|
|Will my Cashless Debit Card work at the shops?||Your card can be used in any shop that has EFT facilities, unless it sells alcohol or is a gambling establishment.|
|Can I still pay my bills?||You can pay your bills with the Cashless Debit Card in person or online. If you were using Centrepay to manage your bills, this will still be available. You can speak to Centrelink about setting this up.|
|Will the Cashless Debit Card have fees?||The Cashless Debit Card does not have fees attached. You can check your balance and transaction history for free.|
|What happens if I lose my card?||Lost or stolen cards will be replaced at no cost. This can be sorted by contacting HOTLINE 1800 710 265|
|Is the Cashless Debit Card only for Indigenous people?||The card is being trialled for all working age welfare recipients. The trial towns have high Indigenous populations and these communities volunteered to be part of the trial to address broader social issues.|
|Why do I need the Card if I don’t drink or take drugs or gamble?||There is a correlation between unemployment and other challenges of disadvantage such as substance abuse. We believe the safety net of welfare in our society exists to support our most vulnerable members and so the conditions of welfare benefits must include measures designed to protect those most at risk. We understand that there are a myriad of circumstances as to why someone might require welfare benefits and we are not suggesting that all recipients are drug, alcohol and gambling abusers, but a national system that caters for all individual circumstances is simply not possible. If you do not have to manage drug, alcohol or gambling issues, the main change should be that more of your purchases are electronic. The Minderoo Foundation is aware that there are technological limitations to how the Cashless Debit Card is currently working. Specifically, that the Card blocks entire merchants rather than individual items being purchased. We have called on the Government to address this shortfall with the banking and retail sectors. We will continue to advocate for the Card to operate as effectively as possible.|
|Is it compulsory for veterans?||The Cashless Debit Card is being applied to people who receive Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, Abstudy, Carers Payment, Parenting Payment and the Disability Support Pension. If you receive a Veterans or Age Pension, you can volunteer to be part of the trial but it will not automatically be applied to you.|
|Will it affect my rent payments?||Centrepay & the Rent Reduction Scheme will still be available from the card account.|
|Limiting cash doesn’t fix drug and alcohol addiction.||Cash can be an enabler of toxic behaviours for some vulnerable people. Its limitation is only one aspect of the solution to overcome drug and alcohol addiction. This is why we advocated for additional support services to be committed across the trial sites. In support of this, the Government invested an extra $1 million dollars for services in Ceduna, and $1.3 million dollars for services in the East Kimberley. One of our focuses continues to be ensuring that these support services are accessible to the people that need them.|
|Can I still use EBAY or Gumtree?||EBAY sells alcohol and therefore cannot be used. Gumtree is a cash economy which can be used at your discretion with your cash allowance.|
|Is the Cashless Debit Card designed for the benefit of big supermarkets?||The card can be used at any grocery shop where there is EFTPOS. In many towns Coles & Woolworths do not even have stores.|
|Can I shop at ALDI?||There is no ALDI stores in the trial towns. We continue to advocate for the technology to be more accessible.|
|Can I still use the local OpShop?||The Governement has installed a Eftpos machine in the local OpShop so the card can be used there.|
|Can I get more information?||Government representatives and the Cashless Debit Card provider (Indue Ltd) will be in your area in the months leading up to, during and after the trial commences. DSS teams will also be on the ground and contactable to ensure you are supported and that essential stakeholders are informed and empowered to deliver on the outcomes of this card. You can find more information here: www.dss.gov.au/cashlessdebitcard, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1800 252 604.|
|Will the Cashless Debit Card alone address these issues?||The Cashless Debit Card is one of 27 recommendations that represent an interdependent and comprehensive package of measures. The Cashless Debit Card is a key part of welfare reform but is most effective if implemented by the necessary support services.|
|Will my privacy be affected?||Neither the Commonwealth nor Indue can see the items which are being purchased using the Cashless Debit Card. They will also never sell personal information.|