Gary Hondow with his son Dallas Hondow.
Gary Hondow with his son Dallas Hondow. Mike Knott BUN140918HONDOW3

Father fears CDC will stop people getting vital healthcare

HINKLER residents have been thrust into a flurry of uncertainty, anger and confusion with this week's passing of the amended cashless card Bill.

People on Centrelink and non-welfare recipients alike have continued to raise concerns over what the roll-out of the trial in Bundaberg and Hervey Bay will mean for them, pointing to specific holes in the system aimed at reducing social harm in communities plagued by alcohol, drugs and gambling.

Coordinator of Breaking Down the Barriers for Rural Patients in City Hospitals, Justine Christerson, said a huge worry for her was was how the controversial card would affect those on welfare who carried the additional burden of needing to travel to major cities for medical treatment.

"They'll have to use the card in cities like Brisbane, so my first concern is whether the payments from the card will be accepted there," Ms Christerson said.

"Or will they have to rely on the 20 per cent they get in their account to pay for accommodation?"

Once rolled out, people receiving Newstart, Parenting Payment and Youth Allowance (Jobseeker) benefits will not be able to buy alcohol, drugs or gambling products with the Cashless Debit Card - where 80 per cent of their welfare payments will be directed to.

The card also limits cash withdrawals to 20 per cent of a person's welfare payment.

But questions on how card holders will be able to pay for accommodation (where alcoholic beverages are sold) when travelling to major hospitals remain.

Janine Christerson is concerned for her patients.
Janine Christerson is concerned for her patients. Contributed

"The last thing you want is someone in an emergency situation in Brisbane and they go to pay their accommodation and are stuck because the card isn't accepted there," Ms Christerson said.

"It's terrible, it's limiting and it could restrict whether or not people can access the healthcare they require.

"If they're not able to use the card at an accommodation due to liquor licencing, or if the city they're in simply doesn't accept the Indue card, then people will be forced to use the very little 20 per cent they can withdraw as cash from their account for accommodation.

"And that, even if they get patient travel subsidy, adds up.

"It's a lot of money when you're on a limited income."

Ms Christerson is a former Bundaberg resident and works directly with rural and regional patients forced to travel to big cities for medical help regularly. "We pick them up and drop them off, help them with their accommodation, meals and toiletries," she said.

"A large percentage of people in my program will be facing the restrictions of the card."

The cashless debit card will be rolled out to anyone aged 35 or under receiving Newstart, Parenting Payment or Youth Allowance, regardless of their circumstances - a fact Ms Christerson is critical of.

"There's a lot of people that are misguided about what the Indue card is. Many think people who will get the card are all druggies who just spend their money on drugs, alcohol and pokies," she said.

That assumption forms a barrier straight away, she said.

"They're then automatically treated just like one of 'those' ... like druggies, regardless of whether they use drugs or not.

"Your everyday person who knows how to manage their money and is struggling to make ends meet will be affected. "They might treat themselves and go to the RSL for dinner once in a while, but then even that will face restrictions once the card is rolled out."

Fed up by the lack of clarity, a Bundaberg father whose son suffers from a rare syndrome said politicians and officials should stop "relying on assumptions, do their homework and have a path in place for this demographic of people".

"I don't agree with the controlled management of funds. We've been on Centrelink before but that doesn't mean we didn't know how to use our money," Gary Hondow said.

"It just targets everyone with the same brush when it should be targeting the ones doing the wrong thing."

Mr Hondow and his wife both work and are over 36, so they won't be placed on the welfare card. Despite this, they are desperate to know how the "amazing people" they've come to know at hospitals would fare once the card arrived in Hinkler.

"In the hospital life of having a medically complex child you get to meet some wonderful people at the hospitals, and there is a lot of people in Bundy that will be affected when it comes to hospital travel," Mr Hondow said.

"If they can't use card at accommodation, or they don't want to, how is that going to be implemented or rectified? Or are they going to be stuck down there stranded?

"There's no way to transfer money to them either, so it's a flow on effect.

"I've asked these questions for months but no one has been able to answer them properly. Everyone says 'we think it will work' but there's no definites."



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