CARD TESTED: Paul Fletcher, Minister for Families and Social Services, with the Cashless Card and Hinkler MP Keith Pitt.
CARD TESTED: Paul Fletcher, Minister for Families and Social Services, with the Cashless Card and Hinkler MP Keith Pitt. Alistair Brightman

Official rollout date for Cashless Debit Card confirmed

WELFARE users under the age of 35 can expect the Cashless Debit Card to be mailed to their door by January next year.

Minister for Families and Social Services Paul Fletcher and Hinkler MP Keith Pitt confirmed the card will be rolled out across Bundaberg and Hervey Bay from January 29, 2019 during their visit to Hervey Bay yesterday.

The rollout will include Bundaberg, Hervey Bay, Aldershot, Bargara, Elliot Heads, Woodgate, Branyan, Booyal, Burrum Heads, Torbanlea, Toogoom, Howard, Childers, Burnett Heads, River Heads and Point Vernon.

A heavy police presence was required as the pair toured neighbouring businesses on the Esplanade testing the card's uses.

Mr Fletcher said between 50 and 100 people would be added per week to the program during the rollout.

"The whole purpose of the Cashless Debit Card is we know welfare-funded drug and alcohol dependency is a significant problem for many Australians,” Mr Fletcher said.

"Here in the electorate of Hinkler there is a high rate of youth unemployment and intergenerational welfare dependence.

"That is to say, a lot of people who are on welfare are people who's parents are on welfare.”

Mr Fletcher said practical issues like the use of the card at market stalls and op-shops would be worked through, as they were in the Ceduna and Kimberley trial sites.

"There will be a significant number of Commonwealth Government officials, Department of Social Services and Human Services who will be here in Hervey Bay, Bundaberg and surrounding areas to deal with those issues and respond quickly,” he said.

But Kathryn Wilkes, who has lead the campaign against the card since it was first proposed in 2017, said the money could have better been invested into services or job creation in Hinkler.

"They've ignored the public and not listened to people on the card,” Ms Wilkes said.

"If you want to help people with addictions, make services like rehab and counselling affordable because this card will bring a hell of a lot more despair, stress and division with it.”

About 6000 people in the Hinkler region who are under 35-years-old receive Newstart, Youth Allowance (Jobseeker) or Single and Partnered Parenting Payments.



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