Correspondence with Gov: DSS on Cashless Income Management

Hi Rosie

Thank you for contacting the Department of Social Services. The mailbox primarily exists to assist current Cashless Debit Card (CDC) participants. We have responded to your three different pieces of correspondence together (two attached, one below).

Merchants and Spend Limits

The Cashless Debit Card can be used at most physical merchants that accept EFTPOS. The only physical merchants it generally cannot be used at are those that sell restricted goods, such as bottle shops and casinos. Online merchants are automatically blocked, but the Department of Social Services has added thousands of online merchants to the approved merchants list. Participants can request additional online merchants be added to the approved merchants list. This list is monitored and updated continuously.

The approved merchants list predominately consists of online merchants. It also consists of a small number of mixed merchants, which sell both restricted and unrestricted goods. No new list of merchants needs to be constructed for different areas because the list is universal – it applies to all regions. It is only divided between Ceduna and East Kimberley on the Indue website for ease of reference. New merchants will be added to the list as the CDC is implemented in new locations.

Participants can use direct entry transfers to pay private rent. Individual housing transfer limits are set based on existing housing information held by Centrelink, participants can amend these limits by contacting the Department of Social Service’s CDC Hotline. A participant requesting to amend their housing limit would need to provide evidence to the Department in the form of a lease agreement or rent declaration form. Landlords and agents do not need to be included on the approved merchants lists.

Participants’ daily spend limits are initially set to $1,000. Participants can update these limits online or at a local partner. The limits can be raised by participants to a maximum of $5,000 per day.

 Geographic Areas

The Cashless Debit Card program is currently operating in Ceduna, South Australia and in the East Kimberley, Western Australia. Recently, the Government announced its intention to rollout the CDC program to the Goldfields region of Western Australia and the Hinkler Electorate in Queensland from early 2018. The two new locations for the Cashless Debit Card were selected based on several factors, including community readiness and willingness, high levels of disadvantage and welfare dependence, and high levels of social harm caused by alcohol, drugs and gambling. The expansion of the Cashless Debit Card allows the Government an opportunity to test the program in different settings.

Information on disadvantage, welfare dependence and social harm was considered alongside information gathered through rigorous community consultation. However, the Explanatory  Statement of the Social Security (Administration) (Trial Area) Amendment Determination (No. 2) 2017 refers to some relevant statistics:

  • In East Kimberley, there is clear evidence of the harm caused by alcohol. For example, Western Australia (WA) Police data demonstrates that in 2013-14 there were 1,456 offences against the person for every 100,000 people in the East Kimberly region. The Kimberley region had offence rates against the person 4.5 times that of overall WA figures. In 2012-13, there were 100 reported incidents of family violence per 1,000 people in the Kimberley, as compared to the next highest of rate of family violence which was 43 per 1,000 people.
  • In the Ceduna region, there is also clear evidence of the harm caused by alcohol in the community. The deaths of six Indigenous people related to alcohol abuse and sleeping rough were the subject of a coronial inquest in 2011. In March 2013, the Ceduna Sobering Up Unit had 89.7% occupancy, there were breath alcohol readings of 0.40 which is as high as the machine measures, as well as many readings in the 0.30 to 0.40 range.

The two additional locations have been selected in a similar way. The Government has considered information on disadvantage, welfare dependence and social harm alongside information gathered through rigorous community consultation.

Memorandum of Understanding

As you pointed out, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed on 4 August 2015, between the District Council of Ceduna and key representatives of Indigenous Communities across the Far West Region of South Australia and the Commonwealth of Australia. The Hon Alan Tudge MP played a key role in consulting with these communities and signed the MOU as a representative of the Government. No similar MOU was signed in the East Kimberley.

Every CDC community’s support is absolutely vital. This support may be reflected in different ways – there is no specific process that communities must follow to allow the Cashless Debit Card program to be implemented.

For further information please visit The Department of Social Services’ website. The website contains links to information on the Cashless Debit Card, including location specific information.

Kind regards


Cashless Debit Card Team

Department of Social Services
P: 1800 252 604 | E:

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