My partner and I were switching full time roles as parent/student, thus switching payments of Parenting and Austudy. What should have been two simple applications proved otherwise. They didn't approve my partner's student claim for 4 months, but this left me on Austudy while no longer studying as two parents can't both be on Parenting payment. The rates of payment are basically the same, but for eligibility reasons it was raised as a debt from over payment and my payment was cut off; they still hadn't approved my partner's Austudy at this time. Multiple complaints were raised from us against both the debt and the time taken to approve payment. When the Austudy was finally approved it was not back dated to the application date but rather an arbitrary date in between, meaning my parenting payment, finally also approved, could not be back dated to cover the 'overpayment'. While every DHS person agreed in principle noone had the power to change the date. One person even told me it wouldn't be worth it as it would end up as a debt against my partner instead. I asked them to calculate the amount: it would be $42 instead of $1850. Cut forward 18 months and hours of phone calls and 'reviews' later, the debt was finally cancelled and recovered amounts were returned. In the mean time my stress and financial anxiety have been terrible, a debt meant no advance payments which is how we usually sort Christmas presents and large bills, and also affected my ability to handle part time study as I was on the phone to Centrelink fortnightly to request extensions of debt payment suspensions and reporting and such. While I'm tenacious enough to ensure the right thing finally does happen I can't imagine how others might deal with this!
It is the shame of the taxpayer funded system that so much time and money is wasted on raising and chasing debts which shouldn't have been called raised in the first place.