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Robo-debt And Denial: The Protocols Of Centrelink

21 June 2017
New Matilda

This is the third feature in Ben Eltham’s 2017 investigation into Centrelink’s robo-debt program. The first article in the series was published in January, and the second article in March.
Centrelink’s sprawling data-matching empire is opaque, error-prone and almost completely impossible to understand, writes Ben Eltham. And it’s expanding across government programs and agencies.
[...]
After listening to weeks of harrowing testimony, Siewert has found the Senate Inquiry a draining experience.
“You come out of those hearings and you feel really drained. The evidence we hear is very distressing – hearing of people’s experiences and feeling their sense of powerlessness and despair.”

Centrelink debt collection 'aggressive' debt collection tactics under fire in Senate inquiry

8 March 2017
News.com.au

Almost 85,000 welfare recipients were forced to repay Centrelink debts in the two months leading up to Christmas, new figures show.
Department of Human Services secretary Kathryn Campbell defended the need to call in debts over the Christmas period during a senate inquiry into the Centrelink “robo-debt” recovery scheme today.
Ms Campbell also blamed the level of media scrutiny on the scheme in January for escalating public concern and the amount of calls to Centrelink.
Department officials were also asked to address reports that a Centrelink recipient took their own life due to their concern about the debt they owed.

Q&A: Laughter as George Brandis says debt recovery notices can be fixed by contacting Centrelink

21 February 2017
ABC News

Attorney-General George Brandis has engaged in a heated discussion about offshore detention centres on Q&A, but it was the senator's suggestion wrongly issued debt recovery notices could be resolved by contacting Centrelink that drew one of the biggest audience responses.
The program had heard from Lyndsey Jackson, the creator of a website for people who had wrongly received letters as part of the debt recovery scheme, who said hundreds of people were suffering anxiety as they were forced to disprove the claims.

Centrelink robo-debt scheme an 'absolute atrocity' but class action not on cards

8 February 2017
SMH

The odds of a joint action against the federal government's Centrelink debt recovery program have narrowed, with lawyers saying it's considered highly unlikely such an action would succeed.
However, Slater and Gordon – and perhaps some of Australia's other leading class action law firms – are investigating Centrelink's handling of the scheme, and have not ruled out challenging the legality of its conduct under Commonwealth laws.

Andrew Wilkie speaks on Centrelink debt debacle

7 February 2017
Andrew Wilkie MP, Independent Member for Denison

The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, moved a motion in the House of Representatives shortly after midday today calling on the Minister for Human Services to acknowledge that the Centrelink debt recovery program has been a disaster and must be shut down immediately.
Mr Wilkie was responding to overwhelming community concern over the financial and emotional hardship the scheme has caused with about 4,000 incorrect debt notices being issued each week.
A copy of the motion follows in full.

Disability advocates hold fears for mental health, suicide

18 January 2017
The Courier

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.

Centrelink debt debacle is bad policy for mental health

24 January 2017
The Conversation

The debt recovery system could hardly have been better designed to create conditions that cause chronic stress.
Its approach has potentially serious consequences. UK research shows when government policies placed new and onerous demands on people receiving welfare payments this led to an increase in mental health problems, and in suicides.
If this debt recovery program continues, it is quite possible we may see similar, adverse effects on people’s health in Australia. As such, the government should suspend the program and rethink its approach.

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