29th Dec 2020
Erin Brady, who uses the Basics Card, says the outage lasted for several hours.(ABC News: Nicholas Hynes)
Some welfare recipients in the Northern Territory have been unable to pay for essential goods and services after a widespread outage disrupted the Federal Government’s income management system.
- Services Australia has apologised for the outage that users said lasted for several hours on Monday
- But it remains unclear how many welfare recipients were affected
- A Darwin resident said she was unable to buy groceries because of the disruption
The outage affected the Basics Card, which quarantines half the income of some welfare recipients for electronic spending at approved providers.
But Territorians on Monday had their transactions declined when they tried to use the card.
“Instead of buying groceries today, I basically had to buy enough food for one day, for my dog and myself, in the hopes that, by tomorrow, the card will actually work again,” Darwin resident Erin Brady said on Monday.
“If it doesn’t, I’m going to have to go and borrow money off friends.”
A spokeswoman for the Federal Government’s social services provider, Services Australia, apologised and said the issue was resolved by Monday night — but did not respond to a question asking how many people were affected.
People in Darwin, Alice Springs and Elliott have told the ABC the outage lasted several hours.
In May last year, 22,000 people in the Northern Territory — or one in 13 Territorians — were part of the income management scheme, the vast majority of them Indigenous.
Ms Brady — who said she was given a Basics Card because after she stopped working to care for her terminally ill father — said being unable to pay for her groceries made her feel like a “lesser citizen”.
“Christmas is over — it’s three days,” she said.
“That’s when you start needing to make up for the holiday food that you’ve run out of.
“It was quite confronting to be told I’m really sorry, but we’ve had to tell half our customers the Basics Card doesn’t work today.”
The Services Australia spokeswoman urged anyone still experiencing difficulties to contact them on 1800 132 594.