Government further disempowers the poor with patronising policy of 'big shame'

Nationally, there are expected to be around 6,400 shops set up to accept the cards

Around 6,400 shops will accept the cards around the country.

Compulsory income management is expensive and an inappropriate attempt to relieve problems faced by people caught up in lower socio economic situations and will do nothing to help empower the country's poor so than can eventually climb out of their welfare hole - on the contrary it further hinders self-confidence and self-determination.

As well as extending the enforcement period of the Racist Cards ('Basic Cards') for ten years in the Northern Territory, the government's narrow-minded policy will also be rolled out in Bankstown (NSW), Greater Shepparton (Vic) Rockhampton (QLD) and Playford (SA).

Other communities that are also targeted include Perth and the Kimberley in WA and various other regions in QLD.

Income management no answer: Sydney rally

AAP Herald Sun 2nd July 2012

Forcing people onto income management will erode self esteem and do little for alcohol and gambling addictions, demonstrators at a two-week vigil in Sydney's southwest say.

SOCIAL workers and union members on Monday started a two-week vigil outside Bankstown Centrelink Centre to protest the rollout of income management.

About 50 demonstrators gathered a day after the Bankstown local government area became one of five national income management trial sites.

Under the program, money can only be spent at Centrelink-approved stores for basics like food, clothing, rent and utility bills.

Australian Services Union NSW and ACT secretary Sally McManus said quarantining more than half of someone's income with a BasicsCard would stigmatise them.

"When you go shopping people will know you're on income management," Ms McManus told AAP.

"It will lead to self esteem being eroded."

NSW Greens senator Lee Rhiannon said the government had produced no evidence to show income management in the Northern Territory had reduced drinking, disadvantage or gambling addiction.

"Why the government is doing it is not clear," Senator Rhiannon told AAP.

"People working on the frontline are saying this is not going to bring results."

Arab Council Australia executive director Randa Kattan said income management in the Northern Territory had seen systematic abuses of rights.

The council is one of many community groups that have joined the Say No to Government Income Management coalition, which plans to boycott the trial.

Spokeswoman for the group, Pam Batkin, said the trial could result in people having up to 70 per cent of their welfare payments quarantined.

"It further stigmatises and marginalises people who are really struggling," she said.

The federal Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs describes income management as a budgeting tool to help people meet family needs.

Gov't turns blind eye to income management pain

Basics Caed

Pas Forgione Green Left Weekly 30th June 2012

July 1 is the new financial year and the start of many new government policies. This year, the carbon and mining taxes, and expansion of income management, or welfare quarantining, to five new locations.

People receiving Centrelink payments and living in Playford in South Australia, Logan and Rockhampton in Queensland, Greater Shepparton in Victoria, and Bankstown in NSW may be subject to the new system.

The carbon and mining taxes have generated hysterical debate, but the extension of income management has been noticeably underreported.

From July 1, people Centrelink deems financially or personally “vulnerable” or are referred to Centrelink by child-protection authorities will have 50-70% of their payments restricted to a “BasicsCard”, to be used only for essentials, during its three-year “trial”.

But the federal government and opposition have made no secret of the fact they would like to see income management nationwide, and extended to other categories of welfare recipients, like “disengaged youth” and “long-term welfare recipients”.

At the 2010 election, Liberal leader Tony Abbott said income management should be applied to all long-term unemployed. This would have an estimated cost of $7 billion a year, the National Welfare Rights Network said.

The major parties' refusal to acknowledge the plethora of research condemning income management as expensive, humiliating and ineffective suggests a deeply-rooted ideological commitment regardless of the evidence.

Initially introduced with the 2007 Northern Territory intervention and described as a child-protection measure, income management has morphed into an increasingly vague initiative to reduce spending on alcohol, cigarettes and gambling, improve nutrition, and promote financial and personal responsibility.

It has also been linked to “welfare dependency”, the supposed idea that generous, lenient systems of welfare make recipients lazy and passive, stifling their responsibility, self-reliance and motivation to find work. It is argued making Centrelink payments stricter and more onerous will raise motivation.

After five years, the evidence suggests the policy (at least its non-voluntary versions) has not achieved its professed goals. Rather, the policy is doing more harm than good.

A stream of studies – from the Australian Indigenous Doctors Association (AIDA), the Public Health Association of Australia, the University of NSW Research Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, and the Menzies School of Health to name a few – indicate income management does not significantly affect the consumption of alcohol, cigarettes, soft drinks, or fruit and vegetables.

  • An Equality Rights Alliance survey of 180 NT women on income management found 85% had not changed what they buy, 79% no longer wanted to be subject to it, and 74% felt discriminated against.
  • AIDA found that NT stores being better organised and supplied with better food was responsible for healthier consumption, not income management.
  • Research by the Menzies School of Health found that improving the affordability of healthy food and community-wide education does improve nutrition, but not income management.

Income management can actually worsen health outcomes. AIDA found that feelings of humiliation and powerlessness generated by income management can cause long-term mental health impacts.

This is consistent with work by Michael Marmot suggesting that control over one’s life is one of the most important determinants of mental and physical health. Income management reduces recipients’ control over their life by micromanaging their finances.

There is also research from Latin America and the US suggesting coercive, punitive policies like income management have the potential to increase family breakdown by placing additional stresses on already vulnerable families.

Also concerning are the perverse consequences of the policy for victims of domestic violence, explored by multiple Australian Law Reform Commission reports.

It is feared the prospect of being subject to income management will discourage many victims of domestic violence from disclosing their situation to Centrelink, claiming extra assistance like Crisis Payments, and leaving the relationship. Domestic violence will be one of the triggers for the “vulnerable” category of welfare recipients and make them eligible for the BasicsCard.

If the five years of deafness by governments to negative evidence of income management is any indication, it is almost certain they will ignore negative evidence from the five new trials. Only a sustained, nationwide campaign linking Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities, welfare recipients and welfare sector workers, unions, migrant, religious, and women’s organisations will make them hear.