Espresso Martinis and Impact
MEDIA, JOBS & RESOURCES for the COMMON GOOD
NEWS  |  Communities

Community Service Organisations Pool Funds for Debt Letter Recipients


Monday, 16th January 2017 at 5:04 pm
Ellie Cooper
A group of Tasmanian community services organisations have pooled resources to fund community legal centres offering support and advice to Centrelink debt letter recipients.


Monday, 16th January 2017
at 5:04 pm
Ellie Cooper


0 Comments


FREE SOCIAL
SECTOR NEWS

 Print
Community Service Organisations Pool Funds for Debt Letter Recipients
Monday, 16th January 2017 at 5:04 pm

A group of Tasmanian community services organisations have pooled resources to fund community legal centres offering support and advice to Centrelink debt letter recipients.

The partners, including Tasmanian Council of Social Service (TasCOSS), Relationships Australia, the Salvation Army, Mission Australia, Anglicare, Community Legal Centres Tasmania and the Mental Health Council of Tasmania, said they would provide $12,000 in funding.

They said people in Hobart and Launceston who were struggling to understand, respond to or dispute their debt letters would have access to increased support from Monday.

Hundreds of people are alleging they have incorrectly received debt notifications from the automatic system which seeks to recover $4 billion in budget savings and has generated 170,000 notices of potential overpayment since July.

The state director of Mission Australia in Tasmania and Victoria, Noel Mundy, told Pro Bono News the organisations involved in the partnership had experienced a “very significant increase” in requests for support from members of the community.

“People have been very traumatised, firstly, by the amount of the debt, we’re talking probably in most cases between $2,000 to $5,500, which for people on welfare is a very significant amount,” Mundy said.

“And… the concerns about the urgency in which they’ve been told they have to pay it and that they are now in the hands of a debt collecting agency, and… their initial debt goes up because it’s now being handled by a third party.

“Some of our clients received these letters the week before Christmas… and similarly we’re hearing stories where people who’ve got children going back to school at the end of January [are saying]: ‘How am I going to afford books or uniforms.’ So there’s that timing of it.

“And… one of the biggest complaints we’re getting is that when they do try to respond with the number that’s on the letter they’re just getting on-hold music… we’ve spoken to a couple of clients who’ve been on hold for up to two hours, and still can’t seem to get any answers.”

He said the debt recovery system also meant community legal centres were “inundated” because the process made it “impossible” for many debt letter recipients to respond to requests for repayment.

“They’re asking people in some cases to produce paperwork that might go back six or seven years of pay slips or expenses from work, and people just don’t hold those for six or seven years….gathering the evidence is just impossible for the clients that we work with,” he said.

“Additional hours for lawyers sitting within the community legal centre… will be able to assist the callers that they’re getting who have this massive debt.

“To work through the process and to advise the clients of their rights… [is] where the funding will be going.”

He said Tasmanian community service organisations often worked together to address large-scale problems.

“One of the benefits of being a small state is we all know one another and we all work together, and we know there’s not enough funds to go around if we all start competing,” he said.

“So we do try and work together as much as we possibly can, I think that’s a real benefit firstly to our sector but moreso to the clients at the end of the line that are getting… cooperative support from services.”

Mundy said other states were also considering a similar initiative in response to the so-called Centrelink debt crisis.

“Within Mission Australia nationally we’ve talked about similar [projects] across the country,” he said.  

“My understanding also is that TasCOSS were in liaison with ACOSS, the Australian Council for Social Service and their COSS partners in other states with a very similar message.”


Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.


Got a story to share?

Got a news tip or article idea for Pro Bono News? Or perhaps you would like to write an article and join a growing community of sector leaders sharing their thoughts and analysis with Pro Bono News readers?

Get in touch at news@probonoaustralia.com.au

Get more stories like this

FREE SOCIAL
SECTOR NEWS

Write a Reply or Comment

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



YOU MAY ALSO LIKE

A girl walks home alone at night... and still isn’t safe in 2019

Maggie Coggan

Wednesday, 13th March 2019 at 12:05 am

Young Australians Growing More Concerned With Mental Health

Luke Michael

Wednesday, 28th November 2018 at 10:20 am

Cross-Sector Coordination to Tackle Homelessness

Maggie Coggan

Wednesday, 24th October 2018 at 5:50 pm

Social Enterprise Has Royal Encounter

Maggie Coggan

Friday, 19th October 2018 at 5:48 pm

POPULAR

‘They don't see eye-to-eye’: Leadership turmoil engulfs the ACNC

Luke Michael

Tuesday, 16th April 2019 at 8:24 am

People with severe mental illness left behind in NDIS transition

Luke Michael

Tuesday, 16th April 2019 at 4:25 pm

NFPs struggling to measure their impact

Luke Michael

Thursday, 11th April 2019 at 4:33 pm

What does a leader look like?

Maggie Coggan

Wednesday, 10th April 2019 at 4:19 pm

Salary Survey 2019
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!