No – neither the evaluation of the cashless card trial nor the wider evidence base show that curbing income support recipients’ access to cash reduces drug and alcohol addiction.
Most people who receive income support do not have a problem with illicit drug use or alcohol dependency. The evaluation of the cashless debit card trial confirmed that most of those involved in the trial sites did not have issues with drug or alcohol dependency or gambling addiction. Further, a majority of card users reported either no change in alcohol consumption, gambling, or illegal drug use, or an increase in these behaviours.
For those with serious drug and alcohol addictions, cutting off access to cash may result in ‘circumvention’ behaviours, with addicts seeking out other means to access alcohol and drugs, often with detrimental consequences for those around them. In both the trial of the cashless card and other forms of income management, there is evidence that people with serious addictions have resorted to range of circumvention behaviours including offering non-participants the use of their card in exchange for cash, alcohol or drugs to a lesser value; on-selling of purchased items for cash; informal work; stealing; and ‘humbugging’ and financial harassment of relatives and other community members.