My 'debt' of $1600 has caused considerable anxiety and depression.
I know without a doubt I do not owe any money as I accurately and faithfully reported my earnings every fortnight.
Initially I was told I will have to pay the money back because my previous employer at the time could or would not provide my payslips. When my case went to review I was told apart from not being able to prove my earnings, someone at Centrelink took me off reporting for a 6 week period and therefore I now owe back what I was payed during that period. This is despite the fact that I was still recording my earnings fortnightly.
I was told after questioning why I am now required to pay for a Centrelink mistake, that I should have known and then let them know they made an error.
I was also told I was sent out letters from Centrelink to which I should have responded, and if I had then this would have been fixed up. I never received any correspondence from Centrelink at all so I could not respond.
I was also told I could submit my bank statements to prove that I was earning money even though it would only be my net income.. When I said I would do that I was then told I couldn't as it wouldn't be accepted.
Debbie was the name of the woman who did my review. I answered every question she asked and explained everything to do with my 'debt'. She was agreeable and sympathetic until each time she seemed to remember half way through the conversation that it was her job to make me believe I was deliberately defrauding the system. Then she would quote legislation to me that I was contravening.
Eventually I ended up in tears in sheer frustration at her pretending to agree and sympathise then completely backtrack as soon as she thought of a way she could counter me. She then asked me if there was anything I would like to say in my defense.
What was the point, I asked, as you will only turn it around and make it look like I was af fault for Centrelink's obvious error? "Well", she said, "You can vent. You can tell me how you feel about it and it will make you feel better".
I hung up.
This is a department who is not interested in the truth, or the effect that their attitudes and system has on people, or the hardship they put you under.
I now live with the constant anxiety that I am going to get another debt letter for some other debt I do not owe.
I find it very distressing to read other people's stories of bullying and deceit from Centrelink as it triggers what I am feeling.
I am a 54 year old divorcee, left penniless by the divorce, trying to get a uni degree so I can to get a job.
I am not on centrelink by choice, it is survival. I cannot work more than a day a week to supplement my Austudy.
With Centrelink and my job, after they have deducted their 'debt' repayment, I am living on $255 a week.
After rent I have $105 a week to live off.
It barely pays for my food, let alone anything else.
Of course, food is the last thing you buy as the bills have to come first.
I have to call centrelink this week to update how much money will be deducted from my Austudy for my 'debt'.
I am extremely anxious that they will want to deduct more than $20 a week as this is less than the minimum deduction they usually take.