A few years back I decided I was sufficiently stable to not have to rely on Centrelink anymore.
I got on my own feet, managed to find a permanent-part time contract in my chosen field of study, and just last month, got to the point where I have started actually, good lord, saving money for a future house, seeing rent and associated bills have always been about 70% of my income.
Funny, that; I've always assumed having trouble with rent was normal for a low income but it turns out I've been experiencing 'rental stress'. How modern.
I received a letter informing me of a $1700 debt. I had always been careful to over-estimate my income for the reporting dates. For example, if I worked 9 hours at normal rates of say $27/hr, I would estimate $28/hr and go from there as a safety margin. Hence my shock in receiving a penalty notice as a reward for cautious economy.
THE DISCONTINUITY INHERIT IN THE SYSTEM
Working for Woolworths, I am lucky enough to be able to source a pay report for the specified period.
The problem is, payslips rarely specify the actual date worked for the pay periods, just an umbrella period (Mon-Fri, paid out Tuesday evening). Mine is no exception.
Centrelink's own website states, word for word;
"Report your and your partner’s income for the whole reporting period, including the first and last days. Report it even if your employer hasn’t paid you yet"
I reported to the decimal my estimated income, based on the days I had worked. The process of confirmation on the Centrelink website involves using the payslips to enter income for Tuesday-Tuesday fortnight, without consideration of the fact that the payslips run from Mon-Sun Weekly.
There is no way to accurately estimate a Tuesday fortnight of earnings, and thus I believe I am being penalised for pay which does not, in fact, fall within the dates indicated. Similarly, amounts received in the bank account on a Tuesday should not count as income for that Tuesday, but the previous week.
There is very little transparency from the Centrelink side of the deal either; I requested to receive a report of what I had indicated my earnings to be, however all I wound up with was a verbal statement of
"You said you have earned X amount for the year".
Exceedingly helpful. Had I a listed report I would be able to at least show the hours and amounts averaged out to the indicated gross, and stand a reasonable chance of taking it further.
Frankly, I'm stressed, angry, upset and furious about this retrospective stupidity, and just a little further away, once again, from approaching a financial situation where I feel secure.
I will fight this like hell.
Insisting that everything is fine is not handling matters.
It feels like another case of kicking the lowest denominator, similar to the removal of Penalty rates.