A young Victorian man forced to take out a bank loan to pay back a Centrelink debt claims the welfare agency never actually told him about his debt and the first he heard was from a debt collector.
Aidan from Warrnambool, who declined to give his surname, received a letter from Centrelink in November informing him that it was reassessing his reported income between 2014 and 2015. The letter came as part of Centrelink's controversial new automated data-matching system which has been accused of errors by countless welfare clients and mistakenly levelling false debts in the many thousands of dollars.
Aidan told The Huffington Post Australia he went into a Centrelink office to ask about the letter. An employee told him not to worry, and to wait for a follow-up letter once he had confirmed his income and other employment details.
"So I waited for the second letter, and the second letter I got was from a debt collector," he said.
"I didn't hear a word about it [from Centrelink] then the week before Christmas I got a letter from a debt collector, not Centrelink, saying I owe them $2500. I spoke to them and they were demanding to pay them or they would collect my assets."