17th July 2018

Knowledge Type

Good Practice Document Lessons learned report


, Australian National Audit Office

Major Project


Of Interest To

Consultants Public sector clients Academia Leadership teams Operators

The Implementation and Performance of the Cashless Debit Card Trial


The Australian National Audit Office review of a trial to implement a cashless debit card, aimed at assessing the impact on social harm and on welfare claimants by ring-fencing a portion of their payments in a form that restricts what they may use it to purchase.

Welfare quarantining, in the form of income management, was first introduced in 2007 as part of the Australian Government’s Northern Territory National Emergency Response.1 The aim of income management is to assist income support recipients to manage their fortnightly payments — such as Newstart/Youth Allowance, parenting or carer payments, and the Disability Support Pension — for essentials like food, rent and bills.2

On 1 December 2014, the Government agreed to trial a new approach to income management — the Cashless Debit Card (CDC), in Ceduna and the East Kimberley. The Cashless Debit Card Trial (CDCT or the trial) aimed to: test whether social harm caused by alcohol, gambling and drug misuse can be reduced by placing a portion (up to 80 per cent) of a participant’s income support payment onto a card that cannot be used to buy alcohol or gambling products or to withdraw cash; and inform the development of a lower cost welfare quarantining solution to replace current income management arrangements.