The continuation of the cashless debit card is a mistake and based on “cherry-picking data”, according to Uniting Communities.
Care organisation Uniting Communities said the federal government had declared the trial a success in the absence of a final evaluation report, and agreed its extension on an ongoing basis with six-monthly reviews based only on interim report findings and without the consideration of the final evaluation report due in June.
Uniting Communities chief executive officer Simon Schrapel said the government ignored key statistics.
“The federal government’s premature decision has ignored the fact that almost half the trial participants who were interviewed indicated that their lives were worse as a result of the trial,” he said.
“The so-called success of the trial and the government’s decision to extend the card on an ongoing basis appears to be based on the views of non-participants, rather than those with lived experience of the card, the actual participants themselves.
“It appears that the government places much greater value on the voices of those not subjected to the imposition of using the debit card than those who are forced to use it.”
The care organisation highlighted an observation in the Interim Evaluation Report that perceptions of the trial’s impact varied between those involved and those in the general community and more participants – 49 per cent – said the trial had made their lives worse rather than better while 46 per cent of the non-participant sample group indicated the trial had made life in their community better.
Uniting Communities also disputed data surrounding reports in the report stating poker machine revenue in Ceduna and surrounding areas during the trial period was 15 per cent lower than in April to August 12 months earlier.
“The claim that the trial has resulted in this decrease in pokies does not recognise the generalised downward trend in poker machine revenue across South Australia or the range of variables that impact on gambling – it appears that the available data is being manipulated to suit the desired objectives of the proponents of the cashless card,” Mr Schrapel said.
He was also “alarmed” at the use of crime data, which the report said was on the decrease when police statistics indicated a 111 per cent increase in robbery and related offences and a 400 per cent increase in non-aggravated robbery.
“It’s alarming to note that the Minister for Human Services has indicated in an interview with ABC News that the crime figures in the report were ‘preliminary and not conclusive’ and yet this very same crime data has been used to validate the extension of the cashless card.”
Mr Schrapel said the government “neglected to focus on the significant negative consequences of the card that have been included in the report” including reports from participants that they felt discriminated against by being forced to participate and the stigma associated with the card.
“Uniting Communities stands by participants in the trial who have experienced stigma and shame as a result of being forced to use the cashless card and call for an end to the government’s inappropriate and victim-blaming approach to managing and providing income benefits to people.
“Uniting Communities calls for a rigorous analysis of the interim findings prior to any decision being taken about the future of the cashless debit card and remains shocked at the government making key policy decisions based only on the selective use of interim findings.”