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Students accused of welfare fraud say Centrelink's sums are wrong

16 December 2016
triple j Hack

Former and current students say Centrelink is falsely accusing them of being welfare cheats and saddling them with thousands of dollars of debt. […] It's the result of a brand new system that matches the income you declared to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) with the income you declared to Centrelink. It's able to go as far back as 2010. When it detects a disparity, it automatically generates and dispatches a letter. For the Government, it's all about clawing back billions of dollars believed to have been incorrectly paid to welfare recipients.

The Department of Human Services, which operates Centrelink, says it is not aware of any problems with its new automated system. It also says there are no online access problems.

Despite these assurances, Independent Federal MP Andrew Wilkie is calling on Centrelink to shut the system down. He says he is hearing from "distraught and terrified" people hit with "incorrect" debt notices. Hack has heard similar stories. Wilkie says the system has "gone rogue".

'Please find attached amount owing - Merry Christmas!' Woman's cheeky response after Centrelink demands she repay a TWO CENT debt

15 December 2016
Daily Mail Australia

A woman has received a debt recovery letter from Centrelink telling her she's been overpaid and had to return the money.
But rather than a massive bill, the government agency was chasing Kerry King from Rowville, Victoria, for two cents.
So she paid up - by sending Centrelink a two cent coin.

Centrelink urged to stop collecting welfare debts after compliance system errors

14 December 2016

Independent Andrew Wilkie warned last week that his office was receiving reports the new system was generating debt notices in error. 
Wilkie said his office had now received several dozen reports from individuals who were wrongly told they owed money to Centrelink. 

He said one of the worst examples reported to his staff involved a man who suffered from anxiety, who was told he had a debt of $10,000. He said the man reported being suicidal.
Wilkie’s office queried the department and the debt was found to be wrong. Wilkie said Centrelink had actually owed the man $700. 

ACOSS criticises government's 'appalling' jail threats to welfare recipients

7 December 2016

Australia’s peak community services body has described the government’s repeated threats to jail welfare recipients as appalling, while reports emerge of flaws with a new automated system designed to detect overpayments.
The government has ramped up the rhetoric on welfare debt this week, warning that its new automated compliance system would allow it to easily and quickly detect overpayments.

Centrelink debt collectors target innocent people

6 December 2016

This seems to be a common problem for people who've done contract, casual or intermittent work in years they have received Newstart or Youth Allowance.
The government is crowing about its new automated system tracking down money incorrectly paid to welfare recipients, but Crikey is aware of multiple cases of people who have been unfairly and incorrectly targeted under the system.

Government pin hopes on automated debt recovery system to claw back $4 billion

5 December 2016
A Current Affair

The government are hoping a new automated system matching welfare recipient's details with information from the Australian Tax Office will aid in the recovery of $4 billion in Centrelink overpayments.
Every day, $4.5 million in Centrelink debt is being identified.
It has led to debt notices worth almost $650 million being issued to customers in the past four months.

$76m welfare ‘overpayment’ will not be pursued, Department of Human Services says

20 October 2016

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.