Income management of government payments on welfare: the Australian cashless debit card

Luke Greenacre, Skye Akbar, Julie Brimblecombe, Emma McMahon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


A new form of conditional welfare through income management is being trialled in Australia, dubbed the “Cashless Debit Card”. It aims to reduce gambling, alcohol and illegal drug use to address social pathologies related to crime and welfare. Routinely collected data from government were used to assess if the targeted reductions arose. Store sales data were also used to evaluate impact on food purchases. No substantive impact on measures of gambling (p =.175), and intoxicant abuse (p =.662) were found. An increased spend on healthy foods (95%CI: 12.0% to 150.0%) was observed, but decreased as a proportion of all foods (95%CI: −6.3% to −13.1%). Impacts on crime and Emergency Department presentations were not substantively found. We conclude that targeting individual choices may not be as effective as policies targeting the historical social structures that serve as antecedents to such social pathologies. IMPLICATIONS The Australian Cashless Debit Card is having nominal impact on the targeted behaviours of gambling and intoxicant abuse While there was an increase in shopping spend, the biggest increase was in spending on less healthy discretionary foods Policies that focus on addressing historical social structure may prove more impactful on welfare outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-18
Number of pages14
JournalAustralian Social Work
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Aboriginal
  • Cash
  • Conditional Welfare
  • Income Management
  • Social Security
  • Unemployment

Cite this