This quite interesting report interviews women from Australia’s Northern Territory about “Income Management” or ‘income quarantining’ since the NTER (Northern Territory Emergency Response). Here is a very short undated excerpt from an Australian government site explaining the quarantining (if you click the link you will find more claims about the rationale, etc):
Income management has been a critical aspect of the response, designed to establish a safe and healthy environment for children. By redirecting 50 per cent of a person’s payments to housing, utilities and food, the amount of excess cash flow, which can often fuel abusive behavior such as substance and alcohol abuse, is reduced.
Half of all income-support and family-assistance payments are income managed so that the money can be directed towards food, school nutrition, rent and other priority items. One hundred per cent of advance payments, lump sum payments, Baby Bonus installments and payments under the Government’s stimulus packages are income managed.
Funds that are income managed cannot be used to purchase excluded goods such as alcohol, tobacco, pornography or gambling products. These provisions affect all people (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) who live in prescribed areas of the Northern Territory and who receive welfare payments.
Hmm. Protection for children, excess money leads to abuse – they are hitting some high points there. Income managed funds are funneled through a cash card called a BasicsCard that can only be used in certain stores – the Government says, stores which sell priority items, although the women in the study seem to agree that many places selling priority items (food, clothing) are excluded.
The report is a mix of qualitative and quantitative work, written by the Equality Rights Alliance, comprised of more than 50 women’s rights organizations. It describes women’s actual experiences with quarantining, setting the stage for further research, and policy reform (although the report explicitly stays away from calling for specific reforms). It is, let us say, not very positive about quarantining. There are really interesting questions raised about who exactly is the beneficiary of these new rules and about the ability of bureaucracies to implement this kind of program in a way which secures the intended benefits without causing other harm.
The Report also shares a methodology with reports like my colleague Janet Mosher’s 2004 report, Walking on Eggshells: Abused women’s experiences of Ontario’s Welfare System.