Enhanced Income Management to provide financial choice

The Albanese Labor Government is continuing to deliver on its commitment to reform Income Management through the introduction of the new SmartCard.

Following the abolishment of the cashless debit card program, the Government said it would deliver a new enhanced Income Management solution, with direct customer contact to be through Services Australia and not a third party. 

Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth said the innovative SmartCard will do that. It gives people access to a modern banking experience through both a contemporary Visa debit card and related customer support delivered by Services Australia.

Services Australia will now support customers directly to manage their SmartCard, including through a dedicated phone line for managing day-to-day customer queries. In the small number of instances where more complex matters arise, such as suspected fraud, Services Australia will provide extra support.

Under these new arrangements, Services Australia will be providing service delivery and direct customer contact.

“Enhanced Income Management is the product of meaningful and extensive community consultation with First Nations peoples, community members and their leaders, service providers, and other stakeholders,” Minister Rishworth said.

All eligible Cashless Debit Card participants in the Cape York and Doomadgee region and the Northern Territory, as well as volunteers from the Ceduna, East Kimberley, Goldfields, Bundaberg and Hervey Bay regions, will transition to enhanced Income Management on 6 March 2023.

There has been no change to the arrangements for participants in the Northern Territory to date.

Participants in the Northern Territory who move to enhanced Income Management from 6 March 2023, may choose a SmartCard with front facing services offered by either Services Australia or the Traditional Credit Union. Outside of the Northern Territory, participants will receive customer support from Services Australia.

The SmartCard will have additional restrictions on card spending - with tobacco purchases not permitted - better user experience, and a connection to Services Australia. 

There will be no changes to the quarantined amount of welfare payments, which remain at 50 per cent of an individual’s payments.

The introduction of the SmartCard will be the first change to Income Management in the Northern Territory, which has remained in place while the cashless debit card program was abolished in September 2022.

The Basics Card, which has formed the basis of the Income Management program in the Northern Territory since 2007, has not been subject to any changes and is still the form of income management used by most participants in the Northern Territory. 

New SmartCards will be available through Services Australia from 6 March 2023. Participants will be able to continue using their existing card and online account until they request or are issued their new SmartCard.

Minister for Government Services Bill Shorten said Services Australia looked forward to supporting customers in their day to day use of the SmartCard.

“Services Australia staff have been contacting eligible Cashless Debit Card participants over the past few months to give them the choice to either exit the current scheme or volunteer to transition to the new enhanced Income Management program if they are in Ceduna, East Kimberley, Goldfields, Bundaberg and Hervey Bay regions. Participants in the Northern Territory will begin to be contacted next week with information about receiving their new SmartCard” Minister Shorten said.

“Specialised Services Australia staff will be on the other end of the phone ready to support anyone who’s transitioning to enhanced Income Management. They’ll provide a tailored service that includes support with budgeting and paying bills, and will have the ability to refer people to Financial Information Service Officers or Social Workers for additional support.”

Minister Rishworth said the consultation process will be ongoing.

“We will continue to work with local communities across Australia to ensure people are supported and informed of the changes, and individual community needs are met,” Minister Rishworth said.  

People can use their SmartCard at over one million merchants across Australia, and take advantage of modern functionalities such as BPAY, contactless payments, and online shopping. People won’t be able to use their SmartCard to withdraw cash or purchase restricted items including alcohol and tobacco.

The Government has also extended funding arrangements for over 40 existing services in Cashless Debit Card communities.

A range of additional supports, including those requested by communities during consultation with the Government, are also being funded. These include:

  • $17 million to support the creation of community-led and designed initiatives providing economic and employment opportunities in Cashless Debit Card sites
  • $49.9 million for additional alcohol and other drug treatment services and support in the four Cashless Debit Card trial sites in Ceduna, East Kimberley, Goldfields and Bundaberg and Hervey Bay regions 
  • $2 million to allow communities in Cashless Debit Card sites to quickly respond to identified needs.

Cashless Debit Card participants from Ceduna, East Kimberley, Goldfields, and Bundaberg and Hervey Bay regions should contact Services Australia on 1800 252 604 to discuss their options, if they have not already done so.

For more information on the enhanced Income Management program and the SmartCard, visit servicesaustralia.gov.au/smartcard