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Major Centrelink change coming for thousands

The Centrelink logo on the exterior of a building and Australian cash.
The way thousands of Aussies receive their Centrelink payments is set to change. (Source: Getty)

The Albanese Government is delivering a long-term plan to scrap the controversial cashless welfare card scheme in remote communities.

Following consultation in sites across the nation, the Government announced a suite of measures to assist in abolishing the cashless debit card (CDC) program and “ensure communities are better off”.

The Government said it was time to put an end to the “failed program”.

The Government will abolish the CDC program and make income management voluntary in Ceduna, East Kimberley, Goldfields and Bundaberg-Hervey Bay.

Under the plan, the Cape York region will retain all of its powers of self-determination and referral for community members to go onto income management under the Family Responsibilities Commission.

CDC participants in the Northern Territory will be subject to the requirements under previous income management legislation.

The plan will see around 17,300 individuals in cashless debit card program sites transition off the CDC and onto the new arrangements, or off the program completely.

Participants in Ceduna, East Kimberley, Goldfields and Bundaberg-Hervey Bay will be able to transition from October 4.

The plan for the abolition of the CDC program includes:

  • an updated income management technology solution with an enhanced card linked to Services Australia

  • a continuation of current community support services and addition of new services

  • legislative amendments to strengthen and streamline income management and oversight

  • delivering $49.9 million for additional alcohol and other drug treatment services and support in cashless debit card trial sites

  • providing $17 million for community-led and designed initiatives to support economic and employment opportunities in cashless debit card sites

  • additional staffing support from Services Australia to support communities through the transition

In the Northern Territory and Cape York and Doomadgee region – as well as volunteers in other sites – the transition to the new enhanced card will be completed early next year.

The changes have been communicated with states and territories, who have all indicated willingness to work with the Commonwealth on the longer-term issues facing these communities.

Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth said the Government had carefully considered measures that would help communities.

“This package will deliver real solutions for those communities who were subject to the cashless debit card trial and provide choice and long-term certainty into the future,” she said.

“We’ve heard from communities about what they need and these measures deliver on that.”

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