Guide to Giving
MEDIA, JOBS & RESOURCES FOR THE COMMON GOOD
NEWS  |  Communities

Centrelink Rallies Call for Immediate End to Auto-Debt Recovery Program


Tuesday, 31st January 2017 at 2:34 pm
Lina Caneva, Editor
Lunchtime rallies across three states calling on the federal government to stop its Centrelink auto-debt recovery program have been followed online with a nationwide virtual rally.


Tuesday, 31st January 2017
at 2:34 pm
Lina Caneva, Editor


0 Comments


FREE SOCIAL
SECTOR NEWS

 Print
Centrelink Rallies Call for Immediate End to Auto-Debt Recovery Program
Tuesday, 31st January 2017 at 2:34 pm

Lunchtime rallies across three states calling on the federal government to stop its Centrelink auto-debt recovery program have been followed online with a nationwide virtual rally.

Using hashtags #dignitynotdebt and #notmydebt on Facebook and Twitter, the online event has run simultaneously with the rallies taking place in Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.

In a statement from welfare peak body ACOSS, CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said: “This error-riddled auto debt-recovery program must be stopped without further delay.

“The tweaks announced by the minister for human services, Alan Tudge, do not address the fundamental problems and serious concerns expressed by us and a broad range of stakeholders.”

Goldie said ACOSS met with Tudge and urged him to immediately halt Centrelink’s automated debt-recovery program, “which is operating as an aggressive abuse of government power, causing extensive stress, anxiety and harm amongst thousands of people caught up in the process”.

“We also repeated our call for the minister to convene a roundtable of key stakeholders and experts as soon as possible to design a humane and fair approach to debt recovery,” she said.

“Further disturbing allegations have been released detailing glaring mistakes generated by the automated system. ACOSS also calls for an independent investigation into these allegations.”

ACOSS called for:

  • The immediate end of the automated data-matching program of debt detection and recovery, including existing debt recovery action that has arisen under this program. Planned automated debt-recovery programs for pensioners should also be halted.
  • The convening of a roundtable of key stakeholders and experts in social security to design a fair and humane approach to debt recovery.
  • An independent investigation into the auto-debt recovery program, including into allegations made by Centrelink staff about the problems with the program.
  • Adequate resourcing of Centrelink and community legal assistance services helping people with social security issues. Staffing cuts at Centrelink must be reversed.
  • Whistle-blower protections for Centrelink staff reporting poor administrative practices.

Goldie said the key issues with the auto-debt recovery program included:

  • the reversal of the onus of proof onto people receiving payments
  • failure to properly investigate the accuracy of automated data-matching
  • continuing debt recovery action where debts are being challenged
  • lack of human involvement in the detection and calculation of overpayments
  • requirement for people to gather evidence of their income from up to six years ago
  • automated debt recovery and deduction of amounts from people’s income support, without human intervention
  • inability of people to make contact and speak with a Centrelink staff member.

“There must be human involvement in the detection and calculation of debts. Without this step, many people will be paying back debts they do not owe, or paying a debt higher than what they owe,” Goldie said.

“The minister must listen to the individuals affected, the broader community and a wide range of stakeholders; and end the automated debt recovery program to prevent further harm.”

Those watching the rallies via the Dignity Not Debt Facebook and Twitter feeds were urged to take a selfie holding their Centrelink debt letter or a short statement of support, then post it to social media with the hashtags.

“The Turnbull government is using a faulty data matching system to issue false Centrelink debts to hundreds of thousand of our citizens,” the Facebook page said.

“Anyone who has ever received money from the government through a social security payment, or knows and loves someone who has, is affected — this includes Parenting Payments, Newstart, Student Allowance, Disability Pension, Age Pension, and the Family Tax Benefit.”

Other speakers at the rally included Greens leader Senator Richard Di Natale, president of the National Union Of Students, Sophie Johnstone, and Zach Brady from Centrelink Class Action.

Also on Tuesday, Greens Senator Rachel Siewert released details of a government response to a parliamentary question about what data it collected on the proportion of overpayments raised as a result of system or administrative errors.

The government responded that: “It does not capture the proportion of overpayments raised as a result of system or administrative errors.”

Siewert said: “It is outrageous that the Centrelink and the Department of Human Services does not keep track of its mistakes and that those relying on Centrelink are paying the price for their mistakes.

“The government must immediately work to establish how many people accessing the social safety net received an overpayment because of an administrative error.

“For the government to not collate that information is deeply concerning. It means there is no attempt to collect data and analyse how many vulnerable people are stuck with debts they were not responsible creating.”


Lina Caneva  |  Editor |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years, and Editor of Pro Bono Australia News since it was founded in 2000.

AON

FEATURED SUPPLIERS


Helping the helpers fund their mission…...

FrontStream Pty Ltd (FrontStream AsiaPacific)

...


Brennan IT helps not-for-profit (NFP) organisations drive gr...

Brennan IT

HLB Mann Judd is a specialist Accounting and Advisory firm t...

HLB Mann Judd

More Suppliers

Get more stories like this

FREE SOCIAL
SECTOR NEWS

YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

Youth Action Group Calls on Young Australians to Get Involved in Social Issues

Luke Michael

Monday, 25th September 2017 at 11:14 am

Raizing the Profile of Asthma

Wendy Williams

Monday, 25th September 2017 at 8:46 am

Alliance Calls on Government to Lead the Way in Protecting Displaced Children

Lina Caneva

Wednesday, 20th September 2017 at 5:31 pm

Social Procurement Challenge – Crowdsourcing a Solution

Lina Caneva

Wednesday, 20th September 2017 at 2:24 pm

POPULAR

Moves to Stop Volunteering at Overseas Orphanages

Luke Michael

Wednesday, 13th September 2017 at 1:54 pm

Future Uncertain for Disability Organisations Following Funding Cuts

Wendy Williams

Tuesday, 19th September 2017 at 8:29 am

Majority of NFPs Are Not Believed to be Well-Run, According to New Survey

Luke Michael

Tuesday, 12th September 2017 at 4:14 pm

More Australians Are Giving Time Not Money

Wendy Williams

Monday, 11th September 2017 at 5:07 pm

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Guide to Giving
pba inverse logo
Subscribe Twitter Facebook

Get the social sector's most essential news coverage. Delivered free to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.

You have Successfully Subscribed!