If you are affected by Centrelink’s automated debt recovery program and do not know how to respond, or believe a debt has been wrongly raised, there are number of things you can do.
The National Welfare Rights Network has prepared a factsheet to help you if you receive a letter from Centrelink asking you to confirm your income at myGov, or are contacted by a debt collector about a Centrelink debt. This factsheet explains the letters you receive, how the online system works, and where you can find help.
While Vinnies are not equipped to provide individual advice, we suggest that people who need further assistance seek advice from their local welfare rights centre, legal aid service, or community legal centre.
If you believe you have received a notice for debt that you do not owe, or if the debt is higher than what you may owe, you can lodge an appeal with Centrelink (with advice from the legal services listed above). GetUp! has also developed an online tool called Fraudstop, which helps people to lodge appeals.
People affected by the debt recovery program are also encouraged to contact their local MP to share stories about the impact of the program and to request assistance by phone, mail or via a face-to-face meeting. Some people have had success having their issue addressed with the intervention of their local MP.
If you have attempted to appeal a debt but have not had your issue satisfactorily resolved, you can contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman who is currently investigating Centrelink and encouraging submissions from people affected by the debt recovery program.
You can also register your concerns at the #notmydebt website, or using the twitter hashtag #notmydebt. #notmydebt is a website and grassroots social media campaign working to highlight the human impact of the debt recovery program. It is building a collection of anonymous stories from members of the public who have received Centrelink debts that they believe are undeserved. The #notmydebt team are also organising rallies and other events across Australia to campaign for change to the current debt recovery system.