Go to top of page

THEY DELETED EVIDENCE

Debt amount: 
$550
Date debt issued: 
Friday, 9 December 2016
Period debt occurred: 
October 2014 to November 2014
Has your case been referred to a collection agency?: 
Yes
Payment Type: 
Newstart Allowance
Appealing Debt?: 
Yes but I lost
Tell us about your debt and how has this affected you? e.g. anxiety levels, financial and accommodation stress: 

I had some financial issues in the late 2000's that resulted from me losing my job when the company I worked for went into liquidation.
It became difficult to find work and so I decided after multiple dead end jobs to go to university.
I completed my degree at the end of 2013 and while looking for work moved from Austudy to Newstart.

In October 2014 I obtained a good job with potential and while I was getting settled in to the job financially I stayed on Newstart for one extra month in order to continue being able to pay my limited bills.

I reported my income as required as advised by Centrelink and my job search coordinator. I actually over claimed my income in one fortnight.
1 year later in October 2015 I was contacted by a Centrelink employee who asked me several questions about this one month period and then informed me nothing further would come of it.

Another year later in October 2016 I received a letter stating it was again being investigated.
I thought this was a mistake as I had already been advised it was over with a year earlier so I ignored it.
3 weeks later I received a bill for approximately $330 because I had incorrectly declared my income. I contacted them told them it was a mistake and I could present proof and I uploaded bank statements and pay slips.
They said they would look into it.

6 weeks later on the same day I received 2 letters in the mail.
1 letter was from Centrelink saying I did not have a debt and that this was a decision that was made under social security law.
The second letter was dated 3 days later and was from a debt collection agency demand for payment.

I challenged this at the end of December 2016 and was informed that Centrelink had no record of a letter stating that I had no debt.
3 weeks later I received a phone call from Centrelink that not only did I still owe a debt but I now owed almost $545. This amount is more than I even was paid by Centrelink within the period in question.
This was followed up with a letter stating this.

I told them that this was not accurate and that I wanted it reviewed.
At the beginning of February 2017 I received a letter regarding this review saying they had knocked $50 off this debt and I now owed $489. This is still more than I was paid within the period in question.
Within this letter was also a break down of the figures that they had used to calculate this debt. This was the first time within four months that they ever showed any kind of documentation regarding these calculations.

I then sent letters to the Ombudsman my local Federal member and the Administrative appeals tribunal.
The ombudsman and Federal member informed me they could do nothing.
My tribunal hearing took another 5 months which was held in the first week of June 2017.

AS PART OF THE REVIEW PROCESS CENTRELINK IS REQUIRED TO SEND ME COPIES OF ALL OF THEIR RECORDS REGARDING MY CASE. UPON CAREFUL STUDY I DISCOVERED THAT THEY HAVE NO RECORD OF THE LETTER I HAVE IN MY POSSESSION FROM CENTRELINK STATING THAT I HAVE NO DEBT. IT HAS BEEN ERASED FROM THEIR SYSTEM.

Upon review of my case and the copious amounts of evidence I presented because I keep records of everything the tribunal member was disturbed that Centrelink had no record of the letter stating I had no debt.
This letter I presented at the tribunal and have copies of.

I was told by the tribunal a decision by them would be forthcoming within 14 days. I called them 21 days later as I still had not heard anything.
When a decision was handed down the tribunal advised Centrelink to revise their decision.

Centrelink issued a new debt statement on 27 July 2017 saying the debt was now $312.
They have issued no statement of exactly how they came to this figure.

Despite following specific Centrelink officers' instructions on how to declare my income I discovered that they use an accrual accounting method. This means if I work between June 20th and June 29th and do not get paid for this work until July 7th yet my Centrelink reporting Date is June 30th then I must declare this income on June 30th.
Even though I have not received it and may not receive it (I have had dead end Jobs that I never got paid for).
Yet as far as the tax office is concerned I do not pay tax on this income until I actually get paid the money.

This has become a matter of principle despite being such a low amount as I did everything required of me within reason as required by Centrelink.
I have completed what I estimate to be approximately $10,000 worth of legal research because I can't afford legal assistance and legal aid would not provide me with any real help.

At the end of March 2017 I suffered from a panic attack which made me unfit for work for several days.
At the end of May 2017 I suffered another panic attack which forced me to seek medical treatment.
Since June 2017 I have been forced to take more than 3 months off work due to now being treated for generalised panic disorder as well as depression that is costing the taxpayers over $1200 through medicare.
This time off work has cost me more than $11,000 in income. Which has also forced me to rely on financial assistance from family members in order to cover rent and various everyday bills.

As of the middle of September 2017 I am just starting to return to work on restricted duties and this has still not been resolved.

How do you feel about the way the Government has handled this process?: 

I think they have either been criminally negligent, stupidly incompetent or just don't care about how the law actually works.