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What should you do if you get a Centrelink debt letter?

4 January 2017
Bianca Hall

For the past few weeks, their phone lines have been jammed almost constantly. 

Graham Wells, principal lawyer at Social Security Rights Victoria, which provides legal advice and help for people battling various Centrelink complaints, says the organisation has been run off its feet in the wake of the debt-recovery saga plaguing the agency over the summer break.


So what should you do if you get a letter saying you owe the department money?

Mr Wells says in the first instance, people suspecting their debt assessment is incorrect should go to their nearest Centrelink office, the MyGov website or, "if you're willing to chance it, on the phone", and ask to have their debt reviewed.

Delegated decision makers within Centrelink, called Authorised Review Officers, are authorised to review department decisions on behalf of the minister. They might decide the debt does not exist, is correct, is too low, or is too high.

This can take between two and six months but Mr Wells suggested that, to speed things up, people could regularly call Centrelink to check on the matter, or go to their local MP and make regular representations there.

Mr Wells said if people were still not happy with Centrelink's internal decision-making processes, they could make an application under Freedom of Information laws for the department to release the documents it holds on their supposed debt to them.