Before January 1, Centrelink debts expired if the agency ignored them for six years. Now it can pursue them at any time like the Tax Office, but within the agency there is confusion about the implications, writes Stephen Easton, journalist with The Mandarin.
In the social services sector, religious voices are significant because faith-based organisations tend to be informed by values of justice, thus informing our choice of vocation.
While we might not always use explicit language about our faith traditions in efforts to be inclusive of all, the recent Centrelink Automated Debt Collection debacle has strongly reminded us of some of the biblical stories underpinning our advocacy.
Centrelink says concerns reportedly emanating from some of its staff — via their union and a left-leaning activist group — are the result of misunderstanding the complexity of the welfare system and personal disagreements with policy and technological change.
In response to the most serious allegations since the “#notmydebt” campaign began to push back against the agency’s letters asking people to clarify differences between information about past welfare payments and tax data, spokesperson Hank Jongen implies that some employees either don’t understand or don’t agree with how the system works.
Centrelink is in the news again after an automated debt recovery system with an overly simplistic data-matching algorithm effectively made up debts for some welfare recipients. This follows the gaffe in September 2016 when members of the Federal Government argued that welfare recipients who turn down paying work shouldn’t be eligible for government assistance. In a disappointing but entirely expected move, the government declined to fix the ‘debt-recovery’ system, in a continuation of their campaign to undermine welfare through continual cuts to unemployment spending.
These cuts are usually defended by the cultural construction of the ‘bludger’: a largely mythological figure who prefers a life on welfare over working and who needs to be discouraged from their idleness by the formulation of harsh laws surrounding the eligibility of Centrelink recipients, already struggling, in financial and emotional distress, far below the poverty line.
The National Social Security Rights Network (NSSRN) has spent recent weeks trying to help people respond to debts raised by Centrelink’s online compliance system. Along with many other organisations, we recently called for the system to be suspended until problems were fixed.
Mrs Razza, 70, receives the aged pension and rental assistance and works at least 15 hours a week in customer service.
The highest concentrations of those on unemployment benefits tend to be in low-income areas of the big cities and remote regions with high indigenous populations. I.e. not seats the Coalition is ever likely to win.
New whistleblower says staff ‘are struggling daily with our consciences’ after being told not to correct errors they see unless the customer points them out
A brave whistleblower is risking their job to expose the shocking inside truth behind the Turnbull Government's bullying debt-threat debacle.
The whistleblower has revealed the flaws in the Turnbull Government's broken data-matching computer that create tens of thousands of false debt threats -- and confirmed that these flaws aren't a mistake, they're the way the system was designed to work.
The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, commented on today’s explosive revelations by another Centrelink whistleblower regarding the Government’s dodgy debt recovery program.
A second Tasmanian Liberal senator has criticised Centrelink’s debt recovery system, urging his colleagues to avoid “another talkfest” and “get the problems fixed”.
The recently elected Liberal senator Jonathon Duniam has written to the human services minister, Alan Tudge, to express concerns about the troubled system.
He told Guardian Australia he had conveyed concerns raised with his office to Tudge and sought an urgent solution.
Centrelink's robo-debt recovery scheme is set to be expanded this year despite calls for an inquiry into the system.
Pensioners, families and the disabled will be among those targeted as the Government attempts to claw back billions in overpaid welfare to help repair the budget.
New figures released in the midyear budget update papers show the Government expects to regain an extra $2.2 billion from parents, pensioners and people on disability support, Fairfax media reports.
Public servants at Centrelink have been threatened with disciplinary action or even criminal prosecution as their bosses at the welfare agency try to stem the flow of internal leaks about the agency's "robo-debt" campaign.
One Nation senator Brian Burston has labelled Centrelink's contentious debt-recovery system "malicious and bordering on the criminal", adding Pauline Hanson's party to the chorus of concern surrounding the automated clawback.
Disability advocates say expanding Centrelink’s debt recovery system to people on disability support will push clients who are already suicidal over the edge and “inundate” overstretched mental health services.
Grampians Disability Advocacy’s Fiona Tipping said she already has a caseload of people in Ballarat who are suicidal as a result of their disability support pensions being rejected or cancelled.
On Tuesday it was revealed the government plans to extend its controversial debt collection system to people on aged pensions and disability support pensions later this year.
Revelations that Centrelink will extend their data matching program to include pensioners and people with a disability sent shock waves through Queensland’s community legal centres today.
A handful of protesters have parked themselves in front of Liberal MP Alan Tudge's office, protesting the Centrelink #notmydebt saga with an abundance of chants and issuing his office with a "debt notice" of $300 million.
The group played mock Centrelink hold music, and chanted "Hey Tudge, we won't budge" before being moved on by police at 2:35pm.
Centrelink management has warned staff they may be committing a criminal offence by leaking internal information, as the welfare agency struggles to manage a backlash from staff angered by the Federal Government's debt claw-back project.
Malcolm Turnbull has dismissed Labor’s calls for a senate inquiry into the government’s automated Centrelink debt recovery program, saying he believes the agency has been acting appropriately.
Australian National Audit Office says it does not want to duplicate the work of the commonwealth ombudsman
Centrelink has recently delegated decision-making about people's entitlements to a computer.
And, surprise, surprise, neither the data nor the software are good enough to support the process.
Centrelink's automated debt-recovery program is likely to face a Senate inquiry, with Labor vowing to move a motion when Parliament returns next month.
Commonwealth auditor-general Grant Hehir has declined to conduct an audit of Centrelink’s expanded debt recovery program, as requested by shadow minister for human services Linda Burney, at least not until the Commonwealth Ombudsman has had a look.
Media reports that Centrelink staff are being bullied into silence ring true. There is no doubt that the Centrelink debt recovery program has reached the point of high farce, and I don’t doubt that both the Government, and by direction senior Centrelink management, are now pulling out all stops to try and silence the workers tasked with carrying out the program.
Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers has supported calls by ACOSS, the National Welfare Rights Network and others to suspend the Centrelink automated debt recovery process, and for government to sit down with the people most affected to put a more respectful process in place.