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Tasmanian community sector sets up relief fund for people hit by welfare bills

15 January 2017
Anne Mather

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.


Community services are concerned the debt recovery “debacle” is hurting people’s mental health, impacting on relationships and causing a spike in demand for emergency assistance.

Tasmanian Council of Social Service chief executive Kym Goodes said people were “anxious, overwhelmed and frightened”.

“We could not stand by and watch people suffer alone. We are hearing from many people in our services and at TasCOSS that people do not know where to go or how to challenge the letters as the Centrelink system is overloaded.

“As TasCOSS members would do in the case of any disaster event, we have dug deep into our budgets to find funds to provide effective and immediate support for Tasmanians who need somewhere to go to get advice.”

She said the community service sector had pooled more than $12,000 to help people navigate the “flawed system”.

The money will fund an increase in services for Community Legal Centres in Hobart and Launceston to provide access to a dedicated welfare rights officer. The funding is on top of the emergency funding relief some affected Tasmanians are already accessing to help them cope with their reduced Centrelink payments as they repay their alleged debts.