: Place-Based Income Management

Place-Based Income Management

Crystal McKinnon and Louise Hicks
Federal

The 2011–12 Federal Budget announced approaches to address disadvantage and ‘build Australia’s future workforce’, one of which is rollout of ‘Place-Based Income Management’ to trial sites across Australia. From 1 July 2012, those people whose usual place of residence is within one of the five trial sites (Greater Shepparton, Victoria; Logan and Rockhampton, Queensland; Bankstown, New South Wales; and Playford, South Australia) may be subject to having their Centrelink payments withheld and directed into an account to be spent on negotiated ‘priority needs’ including items such as food, clothing, housing and utilities.

Place-Based Income Management applies in three categories: Vulnerable Welfare Recipient, Voluntary Participant, and parents 
with dependents. Those assessed by Centrelink as vulnerable or who volunteer to participate in the regime will have 
50 per cent of their payments quarantined to be spent on priority needs. Those who are referred by Child Protection will have 70 per cent of their welfare quarantined.

Some quarantined funds are paid directly to service providers, such as rental agencies and utility companies, the rest is placed on a BasicsCard. The funds on the BasicsCard can only be spent at authorised merchants and cannot be used to purchase ‘prohibited items’ such as tobacco and alcohol.

To date there is no convincing evidence that demonstrates any model of income management has been successful in achieving stated objectives of encouraging socially responsible behaviour among social security recipients while ensuring priority needs of people and their children are met. The rollout of income management as a means to address financial responsibility or social disadvantage therefore remains unjustified and is a move away from evidence-based policy that promotes self-determination and empowers communities to ownership of local solutions to local problems.

Locations for the trial were selected based on unemployment levels and the number of people receiving welfare support payments. Income management will likely have a significant and disproportionate impact on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community due to their population and the levels of disadvantage in the trial sites.

The Social Security Legislation Amendment Act will also give the federal government the power to extend income management throughout the country without further legislation.

CRYSTAL McKINNON and LOUISE HICKS are from the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service Co-operative Ltd.

(2012) 37(3) AltLJ 202
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