Monday, 12 February 2018
Social Services Legislation Amendment (Cashless Debit Card) Bill 2017; In Committee
I would like to counter some of the assertions that Senator Cameron has been making this evening in relation to the ORIMA Research. The evaluation was conducted by ORIMA Research, an independent research company chosen after a public tender process to ensure independence and objectivity. The conduct of the evaluation has been under the auspices of the CDCT evaluation steering committee, comprising members from federal government departments and representatives from relevant state governments. The evaluator provided coverage of the general methodological limitations in the final report. ORIMA Research provided a technical report as an appendix in the final report, noted the sources from which findings were drawn, put caveats on findings where necessary and noted where sample sizes were not additionally significant. The evaluation also found that there are areas that we can improve on, and as we roll out the CDC in the Goldfields and Bundaberg and Hervey Bay regions we will take these learnings into account. The government is satisfied that the evaluator undertook the evaluation in a professional manner and, where results needed to be interpreted with caution, the evaluator highlighted this.
Key results from the final evaluation include that, of those who drank alcohol before the trial started, 41 per cent say they are drinking alcohol less often, up from 25 per cent at wave 1. Of those who said they were using illegal drugs before the trial started, 48 per cent reported using illegal drugs less since the card's introduction, up from 28 per cent at wave 1. Of those participants who said they gambled before the trial started, 48 per cent reported gambling less, from 32 per cent at wave 1. Of those parents surveyed, 40 per cent reported being able to better care for their children since being on the CDC, and 39 per cent reported being more involved in their children's homework and school. In addition, the evaluation found widespread positive spillover benefits from the card, including 45 per cent of participants reporting being able to save more money than before being a trial participant, up from 31 per cent at wave 1, and 23 per cent of participants indicating they spent 11 hours or more per week trying to get a job or paid work.
The evaluation has shown that strategies implemented in the first two sites have been effective in combating avoidance behaviours. Overall, the evaluation has shown a decrease in these behaviours between the wave 1 report and the wave 2 report. It also found that 'most stakeholders, community leaders and merchants did not perceive these practices to be pervasive or widespread'. Can I also clarify for the Senate that the cashless debit card is only applied to working-age welfare payment recipients, and the card does not apply to age pensioners, veterans payment recipients or wage earners in the trial areas.
In conclusion, the cashless debit card program has been designed to ensure that persons' lives are not disrupted as the program works to reduce the consumption of alcohol and drugs and reduce gambling. These restrictions ensure that those receiving welfare payments and their children will have money available for life's essentials. For people who already spend their money responsibly, the cashless debit card has very little impact.
However, where participation would not be appropriate, the cashless debit card is not applied. For example, people do not participate in the program if they have a payment nominee, if they are students living outside the trial area for study or if CDC participation would seriously risk their mental, physical or emotional wellbeing. Risks are assessed on a case-by-case basis. It is important that the department is provided with the flexibility and discretion to apply exemptions where necessary. Accordingly, the government will be voting against the amendments proposed by the opposition.