On 1 July 2012, Income Management was introduced to Playford, northern Adelaide. The “trial” affects welfare recipients deemed “vulnerable” by Centrelink, those referred to Centrelink by child protection agencies, and those who volunteer for income management.
Affected recipients will have 50-70 percent of their welfare payments transferred onto the BasicsCard, which can only be used to purchase government-approved items at government-approved stores.
But the Federal Government (and the Opposition) has made no secret of the fact they would like to see the policy extended to the entire country, and to welfare recipients, like long-term Newstart and Youth Allowance recipients.
Its extension beyond the NT, where it has operated since the 2007 Intervention, comes despite the lack of evidence that IM works; that it improves the wellbeing or financial situations of recipients. Rather, it humiliates, micromanages, punishes, and stereotypes recipients.
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 but a few – indicate that 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 percent had not changed what they purchased – and that 79 percent wanted to no longer be subject to Income Management, and 74 percent 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 what does improve nutrition is improving the affordability of healthy food and community-wide education, not Income Management.
– Income Management might actually worsen health outcomes. AIDA found that feelings of humiliation and powerlessness generated by Income Management can cause long-term mental health impacts.
– And Income Management is expensive: it is expected to cost $4,600 per person annually-money that could provide better financial counselling, education, employment, and other support services. Money that could raise Centrelink payments above the poverty line making it easier for recipients to make ends meet.