Many governments have intensified conditions on social security payments, implementing new paternalist and neoliberal policy ideals that individualise responsibility for overcoming poverty. This article explores how such policy ideals can operate with a racialised impact in the context of income management, a type of welfare conditionality in Australia that delivers cashless welfare transfers. Income management originally applied only to Indigenous welfare recipients, but has since been expanded. The government's rationale for the scheme is to limit access to alcohol and other drugs, and promote socially responsible behaviour'. However, empirical evidence indicates that income management in the Northern Territory has not been successful in achieving the government's policy objectives. Income management is built upon a policy narrative of addiction - those subject to it are portrayed as addicted to welfare payments and to alcohol. This article critiques these depictions and outlines a range of pragmatic, political and ethical concerns about income management.