Compulsory income management: Combatting or compounding the underlying causes of homelessness?

Michelle Peterie, Shelley Bielefeld, Greg Marston, Philip Mendes, Louise Humpage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Compulsory Income Management (CIM) is a form of conditional welfare that involves the mandatory quarantining of a portion of welfare recipients’ social security payments. Quarantined funds are accessible via a government-issued debit card, with restrictions surrounding where and on what funds can be spent. Official justifications of CIM have framed these policies as attempts to combat substance abuse and gambling problems, and to thus secure better outcomes for welfare recipients and their families. Central to this narrative has been the argument that welfare quarantining will ensure more money is spent on ‘essentials’, including accommodation. No existing studies, however, have specifically interrogated the impacts of CIM on housing security. This article responds to this gap in the literature by reviewing existing research concerning CIM's impacts and locating this research within broader debates regarding the causes of homelessness and the efficacy of individualised policy interventions. In doing so, it highlights CIM's potential to exacerbate housing insecurity not only through technical issues such as rental transfer failures, but also by contributing to underlying stressors such as economic disadvantage; relationship difficulties, poor health and addiction; and social stigma. The article concludes that – far from addressing the structural causes of homelessness – CIM has enflamed them.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-72
Number of pages12
JournalAustralian Journal of Social Issues
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


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