Income management and crime: rethinking evidence and theory

Stream: Compulsory income management
Date: Tuesday, 10 September 2019
Time: 10.55 am – 12.35 pm


Since 2007, different forms of compulsory income management (CIM) have been progressively implemented across Australia. As a specific form of welfare conditionality, CIM seeks to condition the behaviours of welfare recipients by quarantining a portion of their welfare income. The quarantined portion cannot be withdrawn as cash, nor spent on perceived ‘vices’ such as alcohol and gambling products. In this regard, it has been imagined that CIM schemes can improve social circumstances and provide an incentive for people to move away from ‘welfare dependency’. It has also been claimed that CIM policies can reduce crime, primarily by reducing expenditure on addictive substances like alcohol and, through the removal of cash, illicit drugs.

This paper focuses specifically on the relationship between CIM policies and crime by: 1) critically exploring this aspect of the CIM program logic and theory of change, and 2) synthesising and examining the current state of evidence regarding the links between Australia’s CIM programs and crime. It adopts a mixed-methods approach, drawing on publicly available program documentation, policy statements, existing evaluations of CIM, and crime-report data to explore the program logic, theory of change and current state of knowledge regarding CIM and crime. The paper finds that, notwithstanding the limitations of crime data, there is no clear evidence that CIM has reduced crime. It concludes by offering potential explanations for this finding, and by proposing additional theoretical considerations that may be helpful in further exploring the potential impacts of CIM policies from a criminological perspective.


Zoe Staines (Presenter), University of Queensland
Zoe Staines is a Research Fellow at the School of Social Science, University of Queensland. She has previously held research and policy positions in the Queensland Government, academia and the not-for-profit sector, most recently working for an Indigenous non-government organisation. Zoe holds degrees, including a PhD, in criminology. Her research interests include social policy, welfare conditionality, Indigenous governance, criminology and social justice.