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I got a letter, now what?

I got a letter, now what?

 

  1. Keep a diary of all interactions with Centrelink
  2. Track down your payslips and other documents for the period
  3. Ask for a review
  4. Request a copy of your ADEX debt schedule
  5. Formally dispute the debt in writing
  6. Make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for case notes from the disputed period
  7. If the debt has been passed on to a collection agency, request that it be sent back to Centrelink
  8. Insist that they update your online account after any changes are made
     

 

    Keep a diary of all interactions with Centrelink

    • Request and write down a receipt number for every conversation you have with Centrelink, on phone or in person.
      Most people use a notebook, some use an app on their phone: whatever works best for you and lets you keep good records over time.

    Track down your payslips and other documents for the period

    • If you are writing to request duplicate payslips from a past employer, we have a downloadable template in Word format to get you started.
    • Get organised so that you can find the bits of paper that you need easily: sort by employer and date, for example.
      You don’t need a fancy filing system; clearly labelled used envelopes in a box will work great if that’s what you have.
    • Changes announced on 14/02/2017 mean that Centrelink can now accept bank statements as evidence as well.
      To help you figure out your gross earnings from the net deposited in your account, we have a spreadsheet template to help you get it organised  (download the "Reverse Pay Slips Calculation Sheet"),
      and a page of Historical ATO PAYG Withholding Tax Tables is in the works for the 2013 to 2017 financial years to use in your calculations (if you want to help out with this, get in touch!). 
      If you had a HECS/HELP debt and had repayments deducted from your wages by your employer during the relevant period, there will be tables for that too.

    Ask for a review

    • Request a Review by an Authorised Review Officer

    • Can be done online, by phone, or in person at an office, but a written request is best.
      Keep a copy of your request and get a receipt from the Post Office when you send it, or request a receipt number if you hand-deliver it.

    • Centrelink officers sometimes try to talk people into having a reassessment instead of an appeal, just stand your ground and reiterate that you want to request an appeal by an ARO.   

    • Download DHS Review of Decision form (SS351) or even better, Victoria Legal Aid’s template letter.

    • Post your request for a review by an ARO to:
      Reply Paid 7800, Canberra BC ACT 2610
      Or fax to 1300 786 102

    Request a copy of your ADEX debt schedule and Multical

    • This sets out, in spreadsheet format, the calculations used to arrive at your debt figure. If it’s in any way unclear where their debt amount comes from, you need this document.

    • If a telephone operator offers to read the figures out to you so that you can note them down, do not accept. The printout they will send you is more complete and accurate, and they are required to send it to you if you ask.

    Formally dispute the debt in writing

    Make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for case notes from the disputed period

    • A FOI request is simply a formal way to ask for documents
       
    • Everyone has the right to access information held by Australian public authorities for free, including from the Department of Human Services (DHS).
       
    • There are a few FOI tools available online, but we have an email template all set up and ready to go here, it just needs your name.

    If the debt has been passed on to a collection agency, request that it be sent back to Centrelink

    • If you are dealing with debt collectors about your robot-debt, make sure you know your rights and don't let them bully you.

    • Private debt collection agencies do not have the right to make you pay, or sue you, or take money out of your wages or tax returns without your permission.
      (although it seems Centrelink can and will take your tax return even if you are on a payment plan with a private debt collection agency)

    • Private contractors are required to comply with Centrelink’s “Collection Guidelines”. This means that they must give you an opportunity to negotiate reasonable repayments that you can afford.

    • If they can’t reach an agreement with you they are required to hand the case back to Centrelink.

    • If you are being harassed by a private firm acting for Centrelink, note the details and report them immediately to the Ombudsman

    • There are resources available to help with this, and organisations that will have your back.

    • Even if an agreement about payment has been reached, you can still ask Centrelink to collect the debt directly, rather than through a private debt collection firm — but you should be aware that Centrelink does have the power to take your wages and tax returns or take legal action against you.

    Insist that they update your online account after any changes are made

    • and that they send you written confirmation, and get a receipt number.
    • Always get a receipt number or written confirmation for all of your interactions with Centrelink, and enter them in your Centrelink diary.