Tina Clausen responds to the Government’s announcement that they will continue the roll out of the Income Management Scheme for all Centrelink beneficiaries, (not just restricted to Newstart recipients as believed by many people).
Participants report they feel penalised and discriminated against by being forced to participate in the scheme and that there is a stigma and a sense of shame associated with having to use the Cashless Welfare Card. They feel humiliated and looked down upon by people in their community when forced to hand over the card to pay for goods – thus proclaiming to the whole world that ‘I am a Centrelink beneficiary and can’t be trusted to manage my own finances’. There is the embarrassment and shame when told ‘no’ when it happens that a business has chosen not to apply to become an ‘approved merchant’ for the Income Management scheme, leaving you to put your goods back and slink out of the shop under the glaring eyes of fellow shoppers.
Why should all people who happen to receive Centrelink payments be treated like second-rate citizens because a small number do the wrong thing? There are hordes of workers who could be nastily described as ‘dead-beat’ parents or have drug, alcohol and gambling issues too. Maybe our Government believes the whole of the Australian population should eventually be deprived of the right to manage their own money? Easiest to start with the most vulnerable and dependent first. Our Government is taking away our basic Human Rights of dignity, self-determination and social freedom.
I would like to highlight that people on the Disability Support Pension or Carers Payment/Allowance, through no fault of their own, can end up on this punitive and restrictive scheme for life unlike e.g students or people seeking employment who at least have a chance of getting off this soul-destroying Income Management scheme sooner or later. Preventing full economic participation in society by people with disabilities on an ongoing and deliberate basis is a breach of both Human Rights and international law.
The scheme is illegally disadvantaging people by letting for-profit company Indue, who were handed the contract for the scheme, retain interest earned on money in peoples’ accounts as well as forcing people to access goods and services that are more expensive than what people themselves can organise to get them for now. Indue stand to earn between $4,000 and $6,000 pa for each person they trap into the scheme. That would equate to a minimum of a $153 fortnightly payment increase for a person on Newstart. Money that could be spent on families, supporting local business and stimulating the economy. Instead the money goes into the pockets of private company Indue and its shareholders.
There are bad apples everywhere; some beneficiaries who maybe shouldn’t be receiving welfare payments and some workers who rip off their employers. The problem is that ALL workers don’t get demonised because some do the wrong thing, yet our Government seem hell-bent on punishing every single person on any kind of pension or benefit – from people on family payments to those on disability support, from young people studying to single parents, from widows pensioners to the unemployed. The list goes on.
This Government seems set on pitting one segment of society against the other and continuing the myths of the ‘great welfare rort’ and ‘huge numbers of welfare deviants and bludgers’. This is most likely their way of getting the general public to swallow what is a draconian and abusive scheme that goes against all common sense, morality and basic Human Rights.