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Talking Point: Humanity needed in welfare fight

15 January 2017
Kym Goodes, CEO TasCOSS
Mercury

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.

Old frail people surviving on a pension with limited access or capacity to use an online system — our grandparents.

Young people studying hard and living on an allowance and maybe some ad hoc casual work, trying to set themselves up for their future — our children.

Mums and dads in Tasmania, trying to survive in a highly casualised labour market that forces them in and out of casual or part-time work, off and on support payments — our families, our neighbours.

Those made redundant as businesses have closed down or the public service or university has reduced its workforce — our colleagues.

People who are unwell and unable to work for short or long periods of time, people with mental illness, anxiety, and those doing it hard and who, for various reasons not of their own making, require some support — our friends.

These people are receiving notices saying they owe thousands of dollars. Can you imagine getting a letter that says you owe $5000 or $15,000 or $30,000?

Can you imagine it taking weeks to try and resolve, going to bed every night not knowing what will happen?

How many of us can find pay slips from six years ago, from an employer who no longer exists? Living day to day and having an unproven, alleged debt incrementally deducted from your bank account, your pay, or your current Centrelink payment while you try to prove your innocence?