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Cashless welfare card must be suspended in the wake of fires

Jan 9, 2020, 05:44 AM by Maiy Azize

Anglicare Australia has called for the cashless welfare card to suspended indefinitely for those affected by the bushfire crisis.

“People must be able to get essential supplies to live and adapt in the wake of the bushfires. With the power out and many outlets closed, people must be able to withdraw cash,” said Anglicare Australia’s Executive Director Kasy Chambers.

“Centrelink has asked people on the cashless welfare card to contact them if they are affected by fires. That’s not good enough.

“With the power out and phones unavailable, contacting Centrelink is just not an option for people in the thick of the crisis. The card must be suspended indefinitely,” Ms Chambers said.

Ms Chambers said that other Centrelink exemptions should also be extended. These exemptions mean that jobseekers in fire affected communities don’t have to meet mutual obligation requirements until 19 January 2020. There is also a two month suspension on debt recovery.

“It’s clear that the bushfires will be with us well beyond next week. Even after the fire danger passes, it will take time for power to be restored, for people to find stable shelter, and to regroup their lives. 

“People will need more time before they can report to Centrelink – and before debts can be collected from them.

“This also affects volunteer firefighters on Centrelink payments. Once the deadline passes, they’ll be forced back into Centrelink requirements. Some might not be in a position to keep volunteering.

“All of these Centrelink exemptions should be indefinite,” Ms Chambers said.

“These fires are unprecedented. The people affected need support and flexibility. We are ready to work with the Government and anybody affected by the fires to make sure our safety net is working for people in the midst of the crisis.”