Cashless card back on table

A SHOCK number of people on the dole are receiving one-on-one counselling for their addiction to gambling.

In a tough-love message, the Turnbull Government will declare those living off the taxpayer need to feed their kids and not their gambling habit as it plans to widen its cashless debit card.

Exclusive national data obtained by The Courier-Mail reveals that of the thousands of problem gamblers who received Federal Government-funded financial counselling, almost half were on income support.

Social Services Minister Dan Tehan has told The Courier-Mail he would reintroduce legislation into Parliament that will trial a cashless debit card for those on welfare in the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region within the coming weeks.

The measure quarantines 80 per cent of welfare money on a customised card that cannot be used to withdraw cash, gamble or purchase alcohol.

Labor has refused to support the plan, forcing the Government to take it off the table, but Mr Tehan said the reform was important and would he push again.

The Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region has the second highest unemployment rate in Queensland at 26 per cent.

Almost 60 per cent of people aged under 30 in the area are estimated to remain on welfare payments for the next 10 years.

"I was in Bundaberg (recently) and met community leaders and citizens deeply concerned about the impact of welfare dependency on their home town,'' Mr Tehan said.

"Concerned citizens told stories about starving kids coming into shops because mum and dad had spent their welfare money at on grog and gambling."

The most recent data shows about 2600 gamblers who accessed Commonwealth-funded financial support were on welfare, but the numbers could be much larger.

Most were in NSW/ACT and Queensland.

Mr Tehan said Australians were aware of the damage gambling addiction caused to individuals, families and communities.

"The Government provides more than $6 million a year to fund financial counselling for problem gamblers and it is deeply concerning that nearly half of the people accessing that service are on welfare," he said.

"Australia's welfare system is designed to ensure vulnerable individuals and communities have access to basic necessities such as food and children's clothing.

"The Government introduced the cashless debit card to break the cycle of welfare dependency by helping people manage their income and stabilise their lives.

"The cashless debit card is making a real difference in the communities where it is in operation and the Government wants to roll it out to other areas, starting with the Bundaberg and Hervey Bay region.

"I visited Bundaberg recently and met with community leaders and residents who were unanimous that they wanted the cashless debit card because doing nothing was no longer an option."

News Corp Australia

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