We recognise that there are some people on benefits that are in a social unstable situation and as such some spending control may be helpful to assist them; however we are not fully persuaded that this is the best way forward unless there is support in other ways where some training in self management is being put forward as a part of the program. Often in these communities the moral standards are in almost free-fall and so if cash is withdrawn without any other support we are concerned about other harmful social actions that may be established. Some of these behaviours could include stealing, drug dealing, prostitution, begging, and scamming and none of these are seen to be lifting the communities out of irresponsible social behaviours. We think there may be better ways but we have not fully developed them as yet.
Putting that aside, we are concerned where several people on welfare may share a residence that is privately let to them may find it difficult to pay the rent to the private owner. Often people on benefits do share residences and their expenses and this could become cumbersome for many to use. I think the Department has not allowed itself to think like some of the most disadvantaged people on welfare. Sure we do not want the money to be wasted on products that are unhelpful to the health of the families involved but perhaps we need to have a more hands on approach to supply training in choices and financial management. A large portion of current welfare recipients are generational welfare recipients and so it is almost the only thing that these people know. We do need a whole social agenda approach to the problems and we are concerned we are treating a symptom rather than the real heart of the problem.
Another concern is that this was first rolled out to remote Aboriginal communities and that is unacceptable in so many ways as it seemed to be racist in intent.
As well, rolling out the card to a whole community makes the ones who are responsible in their spending to be tared with the same brush of the one who are not responsible in their spending. The use of the card in the long run will not assist a person to become responsible in their spending either, as we see it.
There are so many issues that concern us that we are of the view that perhaps this program was not thought out as well as it should have been. The question is, was this a thought bubble that seemed to address a problem that emerged in a few remote communities? Or was it a well considered policy? We are of the view that it may be of the first view as we believe that there are many issues that need to be resolved but do not seem to have been addressed.
I know this does not actually answer your seeming simple question but in the end we have the view that this whole policy needs a close examination as to what it should be trying to achieve and to examine if it is achieving the objectives.