Single parent anger over Centrelink income-management trial



Expert Opinion Panel
Jason Bryce – Business & Finance Specialist

Single parent anger over Centrelink income management
A healthy debate about welfare

Thousands of single parents are angry and confused about income management.
Tony Abbott’s Healthy Welfare card plan will place severe restrictions how parents can use their own money.
Now the government is trying to explain how it will work.

By Jason Bryce | 31 March 2015

little kids dancing under the disco ball - toddler art

Anger and confusion about the Healthy Welfare card

income management program is growing daily…

Anger and confusion about the Healthy Welfare card income management program is growing daily. Single mums around Australia are demanding answers about the government’s plan to severely restrict access to cash by welfare recipients.

Now Tony Abbott’s government is moving quickly to hose down some of those concerns and reassure parents about the new plan.

Trials are due to begin soon of the Healthy Welfare card, although which communities will be the first to be subject to the stringent new spending restrictions is yet to be announced.

The new plan builds on the existing Centrelink Basics Card income management program.

Parents and unemployed people who rely on Parenting Payment or Newstart payments from Centrelink are at the front of the line for this radical new approach to welfare

If you are selected or volunteer for income management, your Eftpos card will not be able to be used to buy alcohol. The card will also not be able to be used for gambling. The card will severely limit the amount of cash you can withdraw from an ATM.

Some information has suggested that the Healthy Welfare program could ban cash withdrawals completely. And this is the most contentious issue of all.

The architect of the Healthy Welfare card plan, mining magnate Andrew Forrest, said the existing Basics Card allows people too much access to cash. Some people can get access to “more than $30 a day,” Forrest told the Herald Sun.

And that is enough, said Forrest to support an alcohol or drug habit. So the Healthy Welfare Card will have little or no cash component said Forrest.

Not having cash will make raising children on Newstart or Parenting Payment Single even harder say many single mums.

One of those parents is Julie Muscat from Melbourne who commented on our previous story about the Healthy Welfare card.

Julie spends more than half of her Parenting Payment on rent and would like Prime Minister Tony Abbott to come and live with her for a month to see how hard it is

Amanda Zurita says her daughter Mikayla needs medicines that can only be purchased with cash. Amanda writes that without that medicine, Mikayla will scratch every “night until her sheets are red with blood.”

Single mum Billie Jo currently voluntarily receives her Centrelink payments onto a Basics Card which she says is “awesome.”

But she is worried that the Healthy Welfare card could take away all her cash. That would prevent her continuing at university because there are so many expenses she needs cash to pay for. She cites student expenses like library printers as well as uniforms and dollar coin donations for the kid’s weekend sports, bus fares, parking meters, fetes and markets.

Billie Jo also said her children do chores for pocket money that she pays in cash.

Single mum Skye Starkey is also at university and says she buys all her text books second hand using cash. Skye also buys her kid’s school uniforms second hand off other parents on Facebook.

Danielle Exton said she is insulted by the ‘generalisation’ that all single parents are “alcos, druggies or gamblers.”

Since our previous article appeared last week,

the government has moved to address some of these concerns and reassure parents about the Healthy Welfare Card

Victorian Liberal MP Alan Tudge is Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Tony Abbott and he has been put in charge of implementing the Healthy Welfare card plan.

“It will be a Visa debit card like what you probably have in your purse now” said Mr Tudge.

“You can use the card to spend anything, anywhere” said Alan, “except on alcohol or gambling.” And your cash will be limited.

Alan Tudge said the Forrest recommendation for no cash at all for welfare recipients is not practical.

“We are not in a cashless economy,” Alan Tudge told Brisbane radio station 4BC.

“You still need cash, for the kid’s tuck shop, the local bus or something.”

However the amount of cash allowed to welfare recipients will be very low

Alan Tudge said it needs to be like that to meet the objective of addressing the harm caused by alcohol and drug abuse, particularly against women.

The exact amount of cash is yet to be determined.

Alan also said that the Healthy Welfare card will not just be introduced to remote disadvantaged communities. Regional and urban areas are also likely to be in the mix for Healthy Welfare card trials.

However Alan Tudge does not envisage the plan being rolled out to all Centrelink recipients in the foreseeable future.

First it will be trialled “in a few discreet locations” then “we’ll make further decisions after that.”

But what about the senate?

Many single mums have asked whether this radical welfare plan is likely to pass through the senate where The Greens and an assortment of independents hold the balance of power. They have already blocked much of the government’s budget from 2014.

However, the Healthy Welfare plan is unlikely to need new laws,so the senate won’t get to vote on this

Even if elements of this plan were to be put before parliament, the opposition Labor Party could well support it. Labor supported and implemented the Basics Card scheme. If Labor supported the government, The Greens and independents would be out-voted.

Jenny Macklin is Labor’s shadow minister for social security. A spokesperson for Jenny Macklin told because no details about the Healthy Welfare plan have been released, Jenny can’t say whether Labor supports it or not.

Jenny might not have made up her mind yet but plenty of single mums do support the government’s Healthy Welfare plan.

Single mum Gislayn Vega from New South Wales said it will stop gambling and drinking and help people with hungry mouths to feed.

“I think it will be good,” said Gislayn “Must stay positive!”

Jason Bryce
Business & Finance Journalist

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Jason is a business and finance journalist with 20 years experience, and is also a member of the Expert Opinion Panel. He has a regular weekly column in the Sunday Mail (Brisbane) and writes regularly for the Business Daily section of the Herald Sun in Melbourne and many other newspapers and magazines.

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