The St Vincent de Paul Society has renewed calls on the Federal Government to immediately end the robo-debt program following the Senate Inquiry into its disastrous effects on people’s lives.
Forcing welfare recipients to disprove their own debts has made the error-prone, previously rare practice of “income averaging” commonplace, welfare advocates say.
The National Social Security Rights Network has used its submission to the “robo-debt” Senate inquiry to provide a forensic and detailed account of the problems with the new system.
Centrelink began recalling all the “robo debts” it had sent to one of its external debt collection agencies in early January, an inquiry has heard, at the same time as federal ministers were publicly refuting suggestions the recovery process was unfair or inaccurate.
In the social services sector, religious voices are significant because faith-based organisations tend to be informed by values of justice, thus informing our choice of vocation.
While we might not always use explicit language about our faith traditions in efforts to be inclusive of all, the recent Centrelink Automated Debt Collection debacle has strongly reminded us of some of the biblical stories underpinning our advocacy.
Over Christmas 2016 and the early weeks of 2017, Centrelink's new policy of automated online debt collection has been subject to conflicting reports, making us wonder what version of truth we might best believe.
The Minister and the department head are sticking to the assertion that everything is working fine. It would be surprising if these assertions were deliberate lies.
Yet there is another version of the truth, and it is compelling.
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.
Before January 1, Centrelink debts expired if the agency ignored them for six years. Now it can pursue them at any time like the Tax Office, but within the agency there is confusion about the implications, writes Stephen Easton, journalist with The Mandarin.
Welfare and citizen groups have stepped up their opposition to the controversial Centrelink debt recovery programme, saying the minor changes announced earlier this week do not go far enough.
A second Tasmanian Liberal senator has criticised Centrelink’s debt recovery system, urging his colleagues to avoid “another talkfest” and “get the problems fixed”.
The recently elected Liberal senator Jonathon Duniam has written to the human services minister, Alan Tudge, to express concerns about the troubled system.
He told Guardian Australia he had conveyed concerns raised with his office to Tudge and sought an urgent solution.
As a result of our experience helping people respond to the new system so far, we support widespread calls to suspend its use unless and until concerns about it are addressed. We oppose any further roll-out of the system to other forms of data-matching at this time.
Our fundamental concern is that the new system creates an inherent and unacceptably high risk that a person may accept and repay an incorrectly raised debt. This risk is not adequately addressed by the present system. This is also leading to unacceptable levels of distress and worry among people affected and more can and should be done to reduce this.