Were we lied to or did was he ignorant to the facts?

This one is especially for my fellow QDN members. Those of you who were at the recent meeting at North Lakes with Federal Member for Petrie Luke Howarth and the Federal Assistant Minister for Social Services and Disability Services Jane Prentice may recall during question time, someone asked about the Cashless Debit Card.

The Cashless Debit Card (CDC) for those of you who haven’t heard about it yet, is the government’s latest scheme in Income Management of people who receive Centrelink payments. All payments aside from Aged Pension and Veteran’s pensions are triggers for a person to be placed on the card.

Once on the card, 80% of your payment is put onto it and the other 20% into your usual bank account. The 80% on the card is restricted to how you can spend it. The card cannot be used for cash withdrawals or transfers between accounts. It cannot be used for direct debit payments unless by agreement with Indue (the company managing the card scheme). It cannot be used to purchase alcohol or gambling items (except for lottery tickets). This means you can’t use it if you go to the club with friends for a drink. You have to rely on the cash you have in your regular bank.

Currently the card has been trialled in Ceduna South Australia and East Kimberley in Western Australia. The third trial site was announced this week as being the Goldfields region of Western Australia. The government and stakeholders in the scheme have expressed every intent to expand this nationally.

We raised our concerns about people on DSP and Carer payments being placed on the card with Mr Howarth who told us we had no reason to be concerned as it was not aimed at people like us. It was apparently aimed at people of working age on Newstart or Youth Allowance. However legislation and guidelines to the scheme specifically state as I mentioned above. ALL payments except for Aged and Veteran’s Pensions are trigger payments for a person to be placed on the card. When I found this information I then went and emailed Mr Howarth as he had invited me to do. His office told me he’d have to do some research and get back to me.

He still hasn’t gotten back to me. Now that the final evaluation of the scheme has been released and the government are blowing their own trumpets about how successful it was (that’s another story) and it’s very clear that they have every intention to continue to expand it, I wanted to make sure you are all armed with the information you need to know. This will be an election issue for us come the Federal election.

The review of the trial showed the numbers of people who responded to the surveys (you can read more about the evaluation and other articles I’ve written about this via the links below). I don’t know why Orima relied on people self reporting what payment they were on when they could have obtained that information from the Department of Human Services but if you do read my other articles you will see the entire review is flawed with inaccurate reporting and figures.

It is important though to note that there ARE IN FACT people on DSP and Carer payments who have been forced onto this card scheme.

Payment Type Ceduna East Kimberley TOTALS
Austudy 0 0 0
Abstudy 0 4 4
Youth Allowance 12 11 23
Parenting Payment Partnered 8 14 22
Parenting Payment Single 29 75 104
Newstart Allowance 102 146 248
Disability Support Pension 33 93 126
Aged Pension 2 0 2
Carer Payment / Allowance 10 14 24
Family Tax Benefit 30 78 108
TOTAL 226 435 661
6 People in total have volunteered to be part of the trial
Source: Orima – Cashless Debit Card Trial Evaluation – Final Evaluation Report

In fact almost half as many people as Newstart participants are DSP participants. There are 2141 participants all up but only 552 people were surveyed. Many have refused to state the payment they receive in the survey.

I have a whole range of concerns and issues about income management as a citizen but as a person with a disability it is even more significant. The difficulty I will have in changing my payment methods of my bills (I share expenses with other people) will be stressful. Not being able to transfer money to my kids or family or pay the small bills I pay by bank transfer will restrict me. Most of all, for myself as a user of mobility devices and a person with motor control issues, I struggle to insert my card into eftpos machines. The CDC has no tap and go feature which is the method I mostly use when using my card while shopping.

I am exploring if this means that the card discriminates against me on the basis of my disability. I also have a number of privacy concerns.

What we were mostly concerned about at the meeting though is why we should even have to be put onto such a demeaning scheme when on the flip side the government are telling us not to accept this kind of demeaning treatment and that NDIS will set us free. Why is it that we can be in control of thousands of dollars in NDIS funds but not our own income support?

If this card is supposed to be aimed at reducing crime, alcohol, drug and gambling problems then why are we being put on it? What are they trying to say?

If you want to find out more about it please feel free to read my other articles or get in touch with me to ask any questions. Most of all, we all need to ask our Federal representatives if they really understand what this is all about and what it will mean for us. And them come the election.

I’d like to believe Mr Howarth wasn’t lying to us and that he was just ignorant of the facts. That said if he was only ignorant and just going by the media releases the government have been putting out to make it sound good, then is he really doing his best to represent us?

Take care all.

Elisha “Friday” Wright

Further reading:

CDC Privacy concerns

Australia’s Biggest Welfare Scam – Income Management and Indue

Australia’s Biggest Welfare Scam – The Orima Evaluation of Indue

Australia’s Biggest Welfare Scam – The Orima Evaluation of Indue

Just when you thought it was as crazy as it could get discovering that Indue’s contracts alone for the famed Cashless Debit Card Income Management Project exceeds

$60 MILLION DOLLARS!

OF TAXPAYERS MONEY

Along comes the next contract joke… Orima.

Orima provide all kinds of research and evaluation services and do quite well out of government contracts (492 contracts, total value $58,680,064.16 between 2007 and now). Not a bad gig. Well just to do this evaluation it cost the tax payer

$160 000

You expect your money’s worth for that with data you can trust right?

Generally speaking after reading a number of the projects they’ve provided research for to various government departments, they’re very good at telling you what you want to hear. Reading the Final Evaluation of the Cashless Debit Card Trial you almost feel like they’re trying to woo Department of Human Services Minister Alan Tudge.

See, Alan and his acrimony for welfare goes way back to, well, probably since he was born he’s just that kind of guy. But before Income Management was an official government policy Alan was working away in the background on policies for welfare reform and as an adviser to ministers way back in the Howard Government…. well hasn’t he come a long way and how fortunate of him to get the Human Services portfolio to be minister of for his very first Ministership… or whatever they call it.

Talk about a ten year plan am I right?

So Orima were contracted to do the evaluation of the CDC trials in Ceduna and East Kimberley. It was a three part report and the final report which the LNP Government are now making their little memes about praising how successful Income Management is (it’s not really) is all because of the Final Evaluation.

To be quite blunt it is 303 pages of the most articulate waffle I’ve read since Tony Abbott’s last speech in parliament. They use all the buzz words and make it sound fabulous but lets be honest, it was nothing more than a market research survey.

I could go through all 303 pages and identify all the problems with the report but you’d get bored. I didn’t but I’m a statistics nerd who loves finding flaws in data. So I’ll give you the highlights. Bear in mind, I am only analysing the flaws in the evaluation not the trial/project itself… that’s for another story coming soon!

To give you insight, this is the objectives of the card that the evaluation is looking at (I just love how there’s NOTHING about employment oh, wait, next story)…

Starting on page 12 it outlines that it will evaluate the impact of the CDC on participants, families and the community. Did it reduce alcohol, drugs and gambling? Did anyone experience shame or social exclusion? Does the community feel safer? (yeah nothing about employment)

They even made all these pretty graphs to try and make their crappy statistics look more impressive.

The only graphs that caught my attention were these two… while the population of Aboriginal people in the trial zones is less than non Aboriginal people, the trial participants accounted for 75 – 80%.

To explain how they evaluate this they have pages and pages of waffle about Quantitative and Qualitative data and methods of collecting data.

There were two surveys done on participants. First in September 2016 about 6 months into the trial. That surveyed a whole 552 people (25%) (there are 2141 people triggered onto the card in the trial in both regions or about 21% of the population of both regions. 794 in Ceduna and 1347 in East Kimberly) the next was May 2017 with 479 people (22%). They’re pretty small sample sizes depending on which analytic method you subscribe to. For an issue as significant as one that could change the lives of millions of Australian’s it’s a rather nonchalant approach. In reality it’s nothing more than a generalised market research survey. You know, like the kind they stop you for in the supermarket when they just need ten minutes of your time and offer you a discount voucher for the product they want feedback on….

Cos that is exactly what they did to survey the community!!! No kidding. I’m serious.

What is even more outrageous is the extent the review goes to justifying it’s methods. There is more pages in wasted justification than there is on the actual results.

The report makes continuous claims that the target areas have had “significant reductions” however it provides very little “administrative” or factual data with all kinds of excuses like lack of availability (then perhaps it’s not long enough to do an evaluation on) and even that Police crime data is unreliable because it doesn’t reflect all the crime only the reported crime… what the? And Tudge and co. think this is reliable?

So lets have a look at the data and results.

Surveys/interviews

Focus Group Wave 1 Wave 2
CDC Trial Participants 552 479
Family of CDCTP 78 0
Community Not CDCTP or family 110 141
Stakeholders/Merchants/leaders 73 86

Drinking Less
The number of people who reported drinking less since being on CDC in wave 1 was 25% of the sample size. The sample size is much smaller than the total of the people interviewed. This is most likely because people were able to respond that they didn’t know or just refuse to respond to the relevant questions. So for this 25% the sample size was 345

25% of 354 is 86 people.

In wave 2 it “increased significantly” to 44%. The sample size was 231.

44% of 231 is 94 people.

I’m not a mathematician, but if my calculations are correct this significant increase of people reporting they drink less since being on CDC is 8 people. THIS IS THE CRAP THE GOVERNMENT IS FEEDING US ABOUT THE SIGNIFICANT REDUCTION IN DRINKING THANKS TO INCOME MANAGEMENT! They say a reduction of 44% in their memes and glossies and media releases because telling you the truth that 94 people self reported they’re drinking less just sounds fucking ridiculous. You know why? Cos it is. It’s ridiculous. Just like the card, this review and the stupid amount of money being spent on this so they can say an increase of 8 people are drinking less.

THIS IS GOING TO SAVE AUSTRALIA!

Mind you no one bothered to mention the report also states that since just before the beginning of the trial, tougher alcohol restrictions were introduced in BOTH trial areas. Ceduna in September 2015 restrictions on the sale of alcohol such as ID for takeaway alcohol, limits to purchase sizes and types of alcohol and banning on selling takeaway alcohol to people who resided in specific areas. In December in East Kimberly they started a trial of tracking the ID of people who were purchasing take away alcohol. These measures were very close to the start of the trial and therefore could also have contributed to some if not all of those 94 out of 2141 people who self reported that they are now drinking less than they did before the card. Oh happy day.

The number of people who reported they’re using illicit drugs less (by the way, it was NOT and anonymous survey. People had to provide ID… just saying):

Wave 1…. 24% n= 84 (n is the sample size). So 20 people
Wave 2…. 48% n=109. So 52 people

Yes a whopping increase of 32 people reduced their drug use during the trial. (According to a certain source cough Larry Anderson’s Say Yes to the Health Welfare Card crap page on facebook cough… this was enough to drive the local drug dealer out one of town. Yeah I’m calling bullshit on that too).

Then there was gambling less. Now Pokies as we know are the lion’s share in problem gambling even though other sources do contribute and much of the talk about the gambling problems in these trial areas was about pokies. Bear in mind in the last 5 years each year has seen a further reduction in pokie revenue (could we really be ready to blow up the pokies?) So that is obviously going to play a part in the reduction of the 12% loss of revenue in the last 12 months reported in the trial areas.

What you also need to know is that there are a whole 40 poker machines in Ceduna and 103 in the the areas outside the trial site that are used to aggregate the figures by the Government. Despite the reduction revenue is still pretty good at at $4.7 million before and $4.1 million now in Ceduna for a total population of around 4000 people (both trial areas – 4110 in Ceduna and 5139 in EK according to ABS Census 2016).  It’s about $1100 a year per person then compared to $997 now. Take into account that during peak holiday season the population of Ceduna almost and sometimes more than doubles, well, it is just so easy to see how the people who get less than $14k a year are the problem spenders on pokies.

It’s also worth noting that the Ceduna revenue equated to about 1.65% of the total state gaming revenue which works out to around $167 per person (figures are lazy and based on population rather than population aged over 18 but it’s generalised enough – still more factual than freaking ORIMA) You can see the spending on pokies in Ceduna is quite high… so lets see if it’s really the people on welfare making that 12% dent in revenue reduction.

People who self reported gambling less thanks to the magic CDC:

Wave 1 32% n= 140 so 45 people
Wave 2 48% n= 109 so 52 people

Yes still the report gloriously praises the “signficant increase” in the number of people gambling less thanks to the card increased from the early days to the later days by a whole 7 people.

So lets take the 794 people on CDC and the reduction of $549268 in gaming revenue. Assuming that the 48% bullshit statistic could be applied to the whole group reducing their gaming spending, that’s 413 people who haven’t. Tudge would have you believe that the 381 people gambling less have been solely responsible for the reduction which means they’d be saving $1329 a year each. Or $25 a week. Yeah, sounds like they have HUGE gambling problems.

If all of that isn’t enough of a farce the stats they’re touting as reductions in crime are actually based on the section of the review that came from the opinions of Stakeholders. Yes that’s right they surveyed the stakeholders and asked them if they FELT that there’d been a reduction in crime. Based on that they got this airy fairy statistic and THAT is the part the government has cherry picked out of the report to say hey look at the great job we’re doing.

If you actually look at the statistics of crime, you know real data, you’ll see that there’s been no significant change in anything over the past 12 months. However if you look at the periods before CDC you will see a different story.

In East Kimberley the increase in crime from the 12 months prior to CDC compared to now are incredibly alarming. Assaults have doubled, steal motor vehicle has more than tripled as has robbery while other crimes such as burglary have also had increases.

In Ceduna while over all crime statistics from Police in the Eyre West district show an over all reduction in crime compared to this time last year of around 10% there has been no continual reduction in the past 12 months. Assaults though are up as is fraud related offences and receiving or handling proceeds of crime. A very important note is that Alan Tudge is tooting his tuba about a reduction of non assaultive sexual offences being down 40% but what he didn’t mention was that other sexual assault offences are UP 40%. So there’s less slapping the barmaid on the bum in the pub but more raping her on her way to her car after work. Yeah sounds fucking awesome Alan.

For the most though there is an over all reduction in crime in Ceduna but police say it’s thanks to their better policing rather than any other so called government initiatives.

It is somewhat amusing that Orima were content to share the answers to their surveys to say it’s a Quantitative response yet didn’t provide any evidence of the apparent administrative data. Just the sources they claim to have examined.

There’s a whole lot more in the review I could flaw but really, isn’t this enough to tell you it’s crap? If Kimberley region has had income management since 2007 and nothing has improved since then, and crime has increased since CDC, surely they have to realise they’re pushing shit up hill? And surely the Australian tax payer has to realise how much of their money has been wasted on empty promises and the propaganda of rich people who would have you believe the poor are evil and will been the downfall of the country. Wake up Australia. Income Support Payments don’t cost you money. They save you money.

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