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No more compulsory income management!

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by Nick G.   (April 2014)
Compulsory income management (CIM) is being rapidly expanded.
It is being expanded in the five so-called place-based “trial” sites of Bankstown (NSW), Greater Shepparton (Vic), Playford (SA), and Logan and Rockhampton (both in Queensland).
It has been expanded to the Ngaanyatjarra Lands (NG Lands) and Laverton Shire (Western Australia) and to South Australia’s Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) Lands.
First they came for the Aborigines…
CIM was first imposed in the Northern Territory as part of the racist NT Intervention.  Aboriginal people in 73 identified locations were issued BasicsCards into which welfare payments were deposited.  Cards could only be used in certain shops and on certain products.  The measure was racist and required the suspension of the Racial Discrimination Act in the NT.
At the time we warned “how repression directed at a minority may become generalised across the rest of society”, and we then saw the incoming federal Labor government extend these draconian measures to non-Aboriginal people in the Territory and then in the five trial sites.
Great opposition to CIM developed in the affected communities which made it hard for social workers and welfare officers to implement CIM as quickly and as broadly as intended.
Indeed, as late as May 2013, only three people were on CIM in Playford.  There was a larger number of people (51) who had accepted inducements to register as voluntary participants in income management.  The latter only have 50% of their welfare payments quarantined onto the BasicsCard unlike people on CIM who have 70% quarantined.  The “volunteers” also receive a $250 bonus every six months they are on the scheme.
Labor expanded the scheme last year targeting young welfare recipients.  By December 27 2013, 495 people in Playford were on income management of whom 403 or 81% were on CIM rather than in the voluntary scheme.
This represented an increase of around 700% in just six months.
The same pattern was seen in other trial sites.  Rockhampton, which had no-one on CIM in May last year had 396 people by December, most of whom were under compulsion to have their welfare quarantined.
Across the five trial sites as of last December 2204 people were on BasicsCards of whom 535 were “volunteers”, 72 were under compulsion having been referred by social workers, and 1597 were under compulsion as young people automatically transferred from the Unreasonable To Live At Home rate of Youth Allowance.
Referring to the Playford figures, Pas Forgione, Spokesperson for Stop Income Management in Playford (SIMPla) said, “This is an enormous blow-out in the number of income management clients, the vast majority of whom have been pushed onto the program without their consent. It is a failed policy.  It is a counter-productive measure that does not build the capacities of at-risk clients…”
Simon Schrapel, Chief Executive of Uniting Communities said, “The rapid rise in Playford residents being forced on to Compulsory Income Management should sound a warning for the whole community - the basic right to be in control of how you spend your own money is being eroded and it will only foster a greater level of welfare dependency which is one of the things the scheme was supposedly designed to reduce.”
Inga Baker, local resident and SIMPla member said, “Hundreds of people receiving Centrelink payments are being forced onto the BasicsCard without justification. Why are we being treated differently? Why are people in the Playford region being treated like second-class citizens? What did we do wrong? This policy is a heavy-handed approach that limits the spending options of the participants and takes away the right to control personal finances.”
We join with SIMPla and other opponents of CIM in demanding no extension of the scheme to other communities, its termination where it currently operates, its administration costs being put into services that build the skills of low-income and marginalised people, and for Centrelink payments to be lifted to alleviate poverty and distress.


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