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Basics Card

Community Affiars - Basics Card - 01/06/2011

Senator SIEWERT:  Do we want to move on to the BasicsCard? I know some of this will be Centrelink, but presumably you will be involved in the process of ensuring there is a rollout of facilities for BasicsCards in each of these locations?

Ms Hefren-Webb:  That is correct. There will be a process for engaging with merchants in each of the locations. We already have BasicsCards sign-ups by a number of national supermarket chains, as you know, but it will be about identifying some other target merchants in each location to encourage them to sign up to the BasicsCard.
Senator SIEWERT:  Presumably that is starting almost immediately?
Ms Hefren-Webb:  Yes, we will start reasonably soon. As I have said before, we have a 12-month lead-in, which gives us a little bit of time. The other factor is that it can be that when the customers actually start to flow through their shopping preferences are slightly different from what we might have predicted, and so we do leave some latitude. It will not be a case of signing up everyone before we start the program. We will try to sign up some major retailers and consult with community organisations about who they think would be useful to sign up in the locations, but there will still be a facility for Centrelink to sign up new merchants.
Senator SIEWERT:  I presume I asked DHS about the cost of the rollout of the facilities in these five locations?
Ms Hefren-Webb:  The cost of the rollout of the BasicsCard facilities, yes.
Senator SIEWERT:  I think most of my other BasicsCard questions are for Centrelink.
Senator BOYCE:  You may not be able to take this any further at this stage, and you have mentioned that you will speak to some individual retail players in those sites. All I was really interested in is, what is involved in further expanding the use of the BasicsCard to these other sites?
Ms Hefren-Webb:  The BasicsCard operates off the EFTPOS system. From a merchant’s perspective, if they agree to sign up it is a fairly quick process in terms of the actual mechanics of it. Centrelink goes in with a swipe card and activates the BasicsCard on their terminal. But prior to that they obviously need to consider the terms and conditions, sign up to that, et cetera, train staff in the use of it.
Senator BOYCE:  Am I right in thinking that the new sites are in the main more geographically diverse than the current sites that you have?
Ms Hefren-Webb:  Currently we have the whole of the Northern Territory, the Kimberley—
Senator SIEWERT:  The Kimberley is only voluntary. No, it is not vulnerable.
Ms Hefren-Webb:  It is not vulnerable, no; it is the others. It would be safe to say we have coverage of a fairly diverse range of merchants already from very small community stores to big supermarkets in Darwin and Perth. These new sites are all reasonably urban in nature. The strategy will be similar to those we have used in urban communities.
Senator SIEWERT:  I know that SEAM is next door, but the SEAM trial is still operating in Logan, is it not?
Ms Hefren-Webb:  That is correct.
Senator BOYCE:  And will continue; is that what I have picked up?
Senator SIEWERT:  I presume that is going to continue.
Ms Hefren-Webb:  Funding for a further year was announced in the budget.
Senator BOYCE:  Because those figures you gave us earlier included the extension of SEAM? That is what it says here.
Ms Hefren-Webb:  The funding of $117.5 million includes funding for the extension of SEAM, yes.
Ms Carroll:  The extension of SEAM is just for one year.
Senator BOYCE:  So, it is not applied to the new sites?
Ms Carroll:  It is for the—
Senator BOYCE:  For 2012-13.
Ms Carroll:  Yes, you are right, because it does not start until 2012-13; that is right. The funding for SEAM is for through to 30 June 2012.
Ms Hefren-Webb:  But it is just for the current SEAM locations. Logan happens to be a site that currently has SEAM and it happens to be one of the new sites, but that is the only overlap.
Senator SIEWERT:  It is not going to be operating when the new process is operating?
Ms Hefren-Webb:  Subject to a further decision of government.
Senator SIEWERT:  Next year.
Senator BOYCE:  But the budget papers say ‘targeted locations income management and extension of the School Enrolment and Attendance Measure’.
Senator SIEWERT:  But what you are saying is that that is only for a year.
Ms Hefren-Webb:  It is an extension in the time sense, not an extension geographically.
Senator BOYCE:  I see what you mean.
Senator SIEWERT:  I appreciate that I am skating on thin ice here about numbers. How many who are under the SEAM trial and being income managed through the process of SEAM are potentially going to transfer over into the new process? Does that make sense? 
Ms Carroll:  It does, except that the SEAM process isn’t income management, so to speak.
Senator SIEWERT:  No, but people—
Ms Carroll:  It is how many people are being affected in the particular locations in the SEAM trial.
Senator SIEWERT:  They get 70 per cent of their income under the SEAM process?
Ms Hefren-Webb:  The SEAM process involves suspension—
Senator SIEWERT:  We are just cutting them off now. We are not doing the 70 per cent management.
Ms Hefren-Webb:  It has never been 70 per cent.
Senator SIEWERT:  Where is the 70 per cent?
Ms Hefren-Webb:  Child protection.
Senator SIEWERT:  I beg your pardon; yes, you are right. How many have been suspended; do you know?
Ms Carroll:  No, sorry.
Senator SIEWERT:  I will explore it elsewhere. There is a very strong potential that those people would then be straightaway designated as vulnerable, because their children are not going to school?
Ms Hefren-Webb:  Yes, I guess the people suspended under the SEAM measure do have contact with the social worker prior to the suspension being applied. The same social workers in the Northern Territory at this stage assessing the vulnerable measure, but as you know, the vulnerable measure does not list failure to have your children attend school as an indicator of vulnerability.
Senator SIEWERT:  Those people are flagged because they are already in the system through the same assistance?
Ms Hefren-Webb:  The social worker has to make an assessment on the basis of the principles under the legislative instrument. A social worker could not say, ‘Because this family has come to me through SEAM and they are having trouble getting their children to school I automatically deem that they are vulnerable.’ They would need to assess them against—
Senator SIEWERT:  Which would be the same process that would work for the housing that we have just been through. That is how they will get flagged to the social worker potentially?
Ms Hefren-Webb:  Potentially, yes.
Senator SIEWERT:  I will ask next door about how many have been suspended. You are taking on notice the process that you are going through in providing the demographics. Will that also be broken down into Indigenous and non-Indigenous?
Ms Carroll:  It will be how we have collected the demographics for that process. We have mostly used standard ABS criteria, but I can see what is possible in what we have already done.
Senator SIEWERT:  I apologise for jumping back, but the officers are still at the table for financial counselling. I know that we have already had the discussion that it is going to roll out much the same. In terms of learning any lessons from the last two years, is there a process for that and is that being considered in the rollout? You are refining the process.
Ms Oswald:  As far as I am aware, the funding agreements will be quite similar to the funding agreements that we have had in the past. I would have to take on notice the question about the evaluation of where we are at at the moment with financial counselling and get back to you on that.
Senator SIEWERT:  One of the reasons that I ask—and I think I have been through this before—is that I have had some feedback that people are still constantly in crisis and they are not getting to the point where they can start thinking about some of the longer term management issues.
Ms Oswald:  This questions relates more to the emergency relief part of the program than just to the financial counselling part of the program?
Senator SIEWERT:  Yes.
Ms Oswald:  We are looking at a model of case management in emergency relief that would work more intensively with clients and do some basic financial education of clients. We are looking at perhaps rolling that model out more widely. While there have been no decisions made about the five trial sites—
Senator SIEWERT:  That is where I was going next.
Ms Oswald:  we may use that opportunity to trial some different models of emergency relief and income management so that we do some more of what we have looked at as money management-type services that have been operating in the Northern Territory and looking at bringing that model more into the mainstream of emergency relief so that there is additional education for people about financial literacy and extra opportunities to do things like money plans and think about budgeting.
Mr Lewis:  This leads on from some work that we did last year with the sector looking at changing the dynamics for ER and looking at a new way of approaching with people how they might not come back as repeat customers. It is quite creative and innovative work.
Senator SIEWERT:  So, is the work that you did with the sector being implemented?
Mr Lewis:  Certainly.
Senator SIEWERT:  Do I assume that the work that you have done there is leading into what we were just talking about?
Mr Lewis:  That is right.
Senator SIEWERT:  Was that developed with the sector?
Mr Lewis:  We certainly spent quite a lot of time last year working through with the GFC and the ER expansion what the implications might be so that in future we were not in the same position.
Senator SIEWERT:  I have a few more questions on income management and then I think we should probably move off 1.1. I want to go back to the issue about the consultation not occurring with the states. Was there any consultation with not-for-profits or service organisations about the nature of the approach to these particular trials?
Ms Carroll:  You might be aware that the Social Inclusion Board has recently done a paper on place based work.
Senator SIEWERT:  Yes. In fact, they have done a number of papers.
Ms Carroll:  That is right. That is just one of them. During the policy development process these things have been very active. The work that has been by the sector around a range of these issues was drawn on in the policy development process.
Senator SIEWERT:  Do I understand that to mean that that work was, but not specifically talking to the organisations?
Ms Carroll:  Yes.
Senator SIEWERT:  I have not asked questions about Cape York, because we are doing that on Friday. It does relate, because it is not an Indigenous question that I am asking. There are a lot of people who are quite supportive of that particular model because of the case management. Again, I am skating on thin ice, but was there consideration given to that sort of even more intensive case management work? For example, you are not pinged on income management under the Cape York approach until you have gone through some of the other support mechanisms. Was that considered and, if not, why not?
CHAIR:  We want everyone to give the same response.
Ms Carroll:  Obviously I am not in a position to talk about what was part of the policy deliberations.
Senator SIEWERT:  What is the difference in cost between the approach that has been taken under this trial and with Cape York?
Ms Carroll:  We would have to take that on notice.
Senator SIEWERT:  I thought you might. You can take that on notice. I realise it is going to be difficult because we are talking about five trials, but I would like to know what the cost is for the trial sites that are only trialling the income management under the various mechanisms and one of the other five that has the long-term unemployed, teen mums and income management.
CHAIR:  Over a set period of time?
Senator SIEWERT:  Over an equivalent period for Cape York versus one of those trials. I think I am on safe ground there in not asking for advice.
Mr Pratt:  Yes. We will take that on notice and do the best we can. I think it is going to be a very difficult comparison.
Senator SIEWERT:  I understand that, but I also understand that in this country we are now operating a number of income management/support approaches. This is another set of that. I think the government should be looking at the costs with the outcomes. I would have thought you would be looking at that at some stage.
CHAIR:  Are there any other questions in 3.1?
Senator SIEWERT:  I am pretty certain the rest of mine relate to Human Services.

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