Andrew Forrest has urged the Federal Government to “show courage” and roll out its cashless debit card to all welfare recipients under the age of 18.
The Minderoo Foundation chairman and philanthropist, and founder of iron ore miner Fortescue Metals Group, also believes the card should be introduced to more vulnerable communities.
His comments came after the release of the Wave 1 evaluation report, which found year-long trials of the card in the East Kimberley and Ceduna had been “effective to date”.
Mr Forrest, the West Australian of the Year, said the card was a success the minute it improved the life of a single drug or alcohol-affected person.
“This report exceeds all expectations and shows that over 100 people are leading healthier and more productive lives,” Mr Forrest said.
“These results are a great achievement and the elders who had the courage to champion the card should feel justly proud.”
“I call on the Government to exercise similar courage and introduce the cashless debit card to other vulnerable communities, and those aged 17 and under on welfare payments.”
The foundation is pushing for the inclusion of welfare recipients aged under 18, because they should not be able to purchase alcohol.
Adding about 30,000 participants to the program would make it more worth while.
Working-age welfare recipients in the trial sites have 80 per cent of their benefits paid into the card, which functions as a Visa card but cannot be used at liquor stores, for gambling or to withdraw cash.
The remaining 20 per cent goes into their regular bank account.
The Government has extended the trial by six months.
The report revealed greatly reduced rates of substance abuse and gambling, but it did raise concerns about “humbugging” or pestering family or friends for money.
It also found there had been “a couple of examples of suspected prostitution” to obtain cash and instances of merchants “overcharging for a product or services and then refunding the difference in cash”.
However, it concluded the trials had been effective overall in decreasing alcohol consumption, drug use and gambling.
Perceptions of the impact of the trial varied between those involved in it and the general community, with 49 per cent of participants saying the card had made their lives worse but 46 per cent of non-participants reporting it had made life in their community better.
Non-participants in the East Kimberley were somewhat more positive than those in Ceduna, the report said.
WA Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said those who had reported their lives were worse under the trial would be devastated to hear that it had been extended with six monthly reviews.