A review of the controversial government cashless welfare card has yielded mixed results and does not provide a definitive conclusion about the effectiveness of the program.

Important points:

  • The review found that alcohol consumption had decreased in communities where the card had been introduced, but this could not be ascribed to the CDC alone
  • It turned out that the majority of participants would prefer to opt out of the program and reported “embarrassment and shame”.
  • Critics of the program said it was racist and had a disproportionate impact on indigenous Australians

Under the CDC (Cashless Debit Card) program, 80 percent of a person’s benefits are quarantined who cannot be used to purchase alcohol or gambling products.

In December, the trials with the program were extended for a further two years after the federal government did not receive any support for the durability of the program in some municipalities.

Critics have labeled the program as racist, and the opposition argued that the program was discriminatory in that it disproportionately harmed Aboriginal people.

The report, conducted by the University of Adelaide and commissioned by the Federal Department of Social Services, examined how the program affected participants in the communities of Ceduna, SA and East Kimberly and Goldfields, WA, where the card was tested has been.

Another trial site, Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in Queensland, was not included in the assessment.

Most of the research was done in 2019.

Clear evidence was found that alcohol consumption in these communities had decreased since the card was launched, but this could not be attributed to the CDC alone.

Then-Minister for Human Services, Alan Tudge, holds a cashless welfare card outside Centrelink in Kalgoorlie, WA, in 2017. (ABC News: Eliza Laschon)

“However, they can be traced back to the complete addition of the relevant guidelines in the test areas,” the report says.

The researchers found short-term evidence that the CDC helped reduce gambling, which had a positive impact on family and social life.

When it came to whether the CDC had led to a decrease in illicit drug use, the report was inconclusive.

Security was found to have improved, except in the gold fields, where a “significant minority of CDC participants reported negatively about security changes”.

There were mixed results on improvements in child well-being, family well-being, and health.

Across all websites, a majority of respondents reported “feelings of discrimination, embarrassment, shame and injustice” for being on the map.

“In the current circumstances, the majority of CDC participants would prefer to end the CDC trial,” the report said.

It also found that some aspects of the map had improved over time, but there was no “evidence that the CDC improved results over time, or that CDC participants were getting more used to it, or that they were refuse them less. ” after they were on it for a while “.