10.1 ‘Income management’ is an arrangement under the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth) by which a proportion of a person’s social security and parenting payments is quarantined to be spent only on particular goods and services, such as food, housing, clothing, education and health care. This chapter discusses the relevance of family violence to income management measures and the treatment of family violence in the income management of welfare payments under the Social Security (Administration) Act.

10.2 The chapter briefly explains the nature and the history of the income management regime and then examines the appropriateness of compulsory income management for people experiencing family violence. The ALRC concludes that the complexity of family violence and the intertwining of family violence with a number of the ‘vulnerability indicators’ that trigger the imposition of compulsory income management leads to serious questions about whether it is an appropriate response. Accordingly, the ALRC recommends that people experiencing family violence should not be subject to compulsory income management and examines alternative approaches. In particular, the ALRC examines the voluntary income management model under the Social Security (Administration) Act and the Cape York Welfare Reform model. The ALRC ultimately recommends that the Australian government should create a flexible and voluntary form of income management—an ‘opt-in and opt-out’ model—to better meet the needs and protect the safety of people experiencing family violence.

10.3 Following discussion of compulsory and voluntary income management, the ALRC examines practical issues arising in relation to accessing income managed funds. The ALRC considers that ensuring victims of family violence are able to access and control their income management account—whether through a BasicsCard, voucher or other form of payment or credit—is consistent with the underlying principles of accessibility and self-agency articulated in Chapter 2 of the Report. In particular, the limited definition of ‘priority needs’ is contrary to these principles and poses particular difficulties for victims of family violence. The ALRC therefore recommends that the Australian Government should amend the definition of ‘priority needs’ in s 123TH of the Social Security (Administration) Act to include travel or other crisis needs for people experiencing family violence.