Centrelink’s automated debt recovery system and its policies of coercion and confusion are causing significant distress to many disadvantaged Australians, the Vice-President of the Australian Association of Social Workers, Christine Craik, said today.
“People look to their government for support, not intimidation,” Ms Craik said.
She said the AASW and its members, professional social workers, have been seeing the devastating consequences of this approach on the health and wellbeing of many individuals and families.
“Centrelink’s automated debt recovery system targets vulnerable Australians by unfairly placing on them the onus of proof. The agency is clearly failing in its responsibility to provide individuals with the correct information,” said Ms Craik.
“The debt recovery measures are a clear example of this government’s desire to make thousands of at-risk Australians pay for its budget bottom line, people who have been forced to survive on inadequate payments and under poorly designed welfare policies,” Ms Craik said.
For the government to address poverty in Australia, it needs to significantly increase welfare payments and allowances so they are well above the poverty line.
“The rates of allowances have now fallen so much that they have actually become a barrier to employment and this has been pointed out by the Business Council of Australia, KPMG and as well as other important human service groups,” Ms Craik said.
“Raising allowances is the most important and immediate action the government can take to address welfare dependency in Australia.”
The AASW represents 10,000 professional social workers who are committed to working with communities and individuals to promote wellbeing, human rights and social justice.