Our Submission to the Community Affairs Reference Committee on changes to the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999.

30 November 2023

KRAI's recent submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs was published on 30th of November. You can read the submission here.

Reviews on the implementation of Income Management (IM) schemes such as the Cashless Debit Card (CDC) and the predecessor the Basics Card suggest that on the whole, these programs do more harm than good. These amendments seek to remove a majority of the mandatory imposition of this scheme. This is due to some of the evidence suggesting that in some cases IM may be helpful. 

Our submission is mindful that in some cases IM may help. However, our submission calls for reforms to the mandatory components, particularly the powers of the Secretary. 

Our submission highlights the need for culturally appropriate oversight on the Secretary's decision to impose income management. Our recommendations call for a committee to review and advise on the Secretary's decision before a decision to impose IM. 

IM infantilises recipients, assuming they cannot manage money; assuming that they have drug and alcohol problems. Infantilising people will only lead to perceptions of discrimination and disempowerment. Psychological research demonstrates the impacts that discrimination and disempowerment has on mental health. As such KRAI cannot support the imposition of mandatory IM without proper oversight. 

Our submission also highlights the urgent need to address telecommunications infrastructure, particularly when IM recipients are unable to use the CDC when network outages occur. Unlike debit cards, a CDC recipient is unable to use their signature to have a payment debited in the future. This means that all CDC recipients are unable to make purchases when telecommunications infrastructure are down. This is potentially dangerous if an insulin dependent diabetic is unable to access life saving medication due to outages. 

Our submission emphasises the need to provide greater oversight over decisions to impose IM and to ensure that telecommunications outages do not lead IM recipients unable to acquire essential items.