Technologising the poor: Cashless Debit Card trials expanding despite no credible evidence for positive outcomes

By Dr Shelley Bielefeld
Senior Lecturer
Griffith Law School
Australia’s social security system has undergone significant change in recent years, where the poor are increasingly subject to technologically enhanced oversight. The Cashless Debit Card (CDC) is part of this trend. The CDC was triggered by a recommendation in the 2014 Forrest Review, purportedly to address alcohol addiction, substance abuse and gambling issues.
Under the Social Security Legislation Amendment (Debit Card Trial) Act 2015 (Cth), the objectives the CDC are to: reduce the amount of cash ‘available to be spent on alcoholic beverages, gambling and illegal drugs’, ‘determine whether such a reduction decreases violence or harm in trial areas’, ‘determine whether such arrangements are more effective when community bodies are involved’, and ‘encourage socially responsible behaviour’. Eighty per cent of a person’s regular social security payment is quarantined on the CDC, which can be spent at limited retail outlets and service providers.
The CDC was introduced

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