Federal Member for Grey Rowan Ramsey has welcomed the government’s extension of the cashless debit card in Ceduna saying abandoning the trial would be abandoning those who had benefitted from it.
Human Services Minister Alan Tudge announced the extension last Tuesday as the 12-month trial came to an end.
"The interim independent evaluation... (is) strong and following consultation with community leaders the government has decided that to abandon the trial now would be an abandonment of the individuals and the community which have benefitted so much,” Mr Ramsey said.
“The indigenous community leaders, the mayor Allan Suter, Ministers (Nigel) Scullion and Tudge and I have been in regular consultation right through the trial.
"As issues have arisen, they have been addressed and then support services targeting the transition period and services like financial counselling and planning have and are making a significant difference to the communities.”
Mr Ramsey said the feedback he had received had been overwhelmingly positive.
He also said he was encouraged the results of the independent evaluation for the initial trial period had shown good results with reductions in hospital admittance, crime, gambling and alcohol consumption.
“The extension of the trial will be assessed every six months.”
Mr Ramsey said Mr Suter was very supportive of the card and had reported since the card was introduced “it is the quietest the town has been”.
Mr Suter said there were “irrefutably excellent results” indicating a reduction in the use of alcohol and drugs and shrinking rates of gambling from those participating in the trial.
“This is the very reason the cashless debit card was introduced with the hope of breaking the cycle of violence as a result of alcohol and welfare dependency by stabilising the lives of recipients and their families and helping them into employment,” Mr Ramsey said.
“People on the cashless debit card do have the opportunity to ask for an increase in the amount of cash available by applying to the Community Panel.”
He said the 80:20 ratio for money going on to the card compared to money going into people’s bank accounts could be increased up to 50:50 if the person could be shown to be responsible and not at risk of drugs, gambling and alcohol dependency.
“Community leaders, both indigenous and non-indigenous, have a thorough understanding of local issues and believe the trial has helped to address the devastating impacts of drug and alcohol misuse and problem gambling in their communities.”
The trial consisted of three parts – a cashless debit card, support services to help people break their addictions, and a community leadership group to guide the design and implementation.
“The report outlines some of the improvements across the two sites including significant drops in alcohol consumption, gambling and illicit drugs,” Mr Ramsey said.
“Thirty one per cent of those surveyed feel they are better able to look after their children, retailers are reporting increased sales of white goods, clothes, food and household items.
“With those types of results it would been bordering on irresponsible not to extend the trial.”