In a statement today, ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said: “This error-riddled Auto-Debt Recovery Program must be stopped without further delay. The tweaks announced by the Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge do not address the fundamental problems and serious concerns expressed by us and a broad range of stakeholders.
Dear Prime Minister, I write to you on an urgent basis to call on you to immediately halt the automated recovery of Centrelink debts to prevent further harm being caused to potentially hundreds of thousands of people who have received a Centrelink payment.
The government has written off $76 million in welfare overpayments, declaring it would cost more to chase the debt than to waive it.
The Department of Human Services overpaid 1.5 million people a total of $1.5 billion, an average of $1000 each, during 2015-16. It clawed back $920 million by deducting money owed from ongoing social security payments or tax refunds.
Tasmanian Liberal Senator Eric Abetz says concerns he raised about Centrelink’s debt recovery program after realising he had an affected relative have now been allayed.
Centrelink's debt recovery system will be scrutinised by a Senate inquiry, as Liberal MPs join Labor and social services groups in complaining about the automated welfare crackdown.
The current Centrelink debt fiasco is, sadly, measuring up as a human disaster. There are now too many frightening examples of letters and subsequent poor treatment of individuals trying to prove their innocence.
A disaster relief fund has been formed for Tasmanians struggling with the mounting stress of Centrelink’s controversial debt recovery system.
The state’s community service sector has rallied together to provide immediate support to Tasmanians needing legal advice, advocacy and support about their debt notices.
ACOSS calls on the Australian Government to immediately suspend the automated Centrelink debt recovery program that is treating current and past Centrelink recipients like second-class citizens. ACOSS also calls for the program to be independently reviewed.
The Government knew Centrelink’s debt recovery program would incorrectly tell clients they owed money if human oversight was reduced, but continued to do so in a bid to cut costs.
Cost-benefit analysis of the Centrelink program — which compares employment data from the Australian Tax Office and Centrelink — found more than 860,000 clients were wrongly told they had debts between 2010 and 2013.
The debt recovery program had human oversight during these years but more than 1 million discrepancies were found, with an average debt value of $1,400 per person.
Vinnies has joined the chorus of welfare organisations demanding the government suspend the Centrelink debt recovery system, saying it should not be viewed as a “weapon” of deficit reduction.