The Monash University and the University of South Australia have unveiled the results of a new study, according to which the country’s Cashless Debit Card (CDC) scheme is having practically no impact on the problem behaviour of local residents.
The scheme is aimed at imposing some limits on welfare users’ spending. As previously revealed, the Australian CDC has been rolled out as a trial form of conditional financial help that basically forbids welfare recipients from withdrawing cash from their welfare accounts and using the money to fuel their gambling habits or purchase alcohol.
The Cashless Debit Card scheme has been rolled out on trial in a total of four locations across the country. As originally revealed by the competent authorities, the major objective of the initiative was tackling problem gambling, promoting healthier eating habits, putting an end to illegal drug use and reducing alcohol abuse.
Now, the new research that was headed by Dr Skye Akbar and Dr Luke Greenacre, academics from the University of South Australia, checked the change brought to welfare users’ behaviours after the introduction of the CDC scheme on trial in South Australia. Both of them found that the implementation of the scheme hardly had any impact on these behaviours, so no statistically significant improvement in them was found.
Cashless Debit Card Scheme Rolled Out on Trial in Four Locations
As Dr Greenacre explained, at the time of the research routine government data and store sales data was used in order for the academics to estimate the targeted reductions over an extended period. Unfortunately, no substantive impact on measures associated with gambling, crime or emergency department presentations, as well as alcohol and drug abuse.
Dr Greenacre further noted that a small rise in healthy foods purchases was registered. However, healthy foods, in fact, declined in the proportion of all foods being purchased over the period – a trend that, according to researchers, suggested that the users of Cashless Debit Cards were purchasing more food as a whole, but the bigger increase was registered in the rates of unhealthy food being purchased.
Some funds to extend and eventually expand the ongoing CDC scheme trials have been allocated in the recent Federal Budget. The lower house is set to vote on a bill associated with the move before Christmas, and the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee is expected to table a report on November 17th. The new study presented by the Monash University and the University of South Australia, however, has been unveiled as the first independent assessment of the scheme’s quality in terms of meeting its objectives.
The researchers revealed they were not being critical of authorities’ attempts to address various social issues such as problem gambling in Australia. However, they claim that if the Government was making plans to expand the Cashless Debit Card scheme, they should have made sure it met the objectives – something that just did not happen, according to the research data.