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Robo debt: Andrew Leigh 'inundated' with letters from affected Canberrans

30 January 2017
Canberra Times

Member for Fenner, Andrew Leigh said his office had been "inundated" with letters of angst, fear and frustration as more than 50 Canberrans contacted him about their Centrelink robo-debt woes so far this month.
The heartbreaking stories of financial stress and worry were a reminder of just how tough it was to get by on the poverty line and highlighted the "crude way this [process] was being carried out", with people who do and don't actually need to pay back money.

Bass Labor MP Ross Hart concerned by Centrelink online compliance system

29 January 2017
The Examiner

Bass Labor MP Ross Hart says his office is doing the work of Centrelink staff, assisting constituents with contesting and resolving letters sent to them from Centrelink demanding repayments of welfare.
Mr Hart said that his office has 21 Centrelink complaints on file that his staff are working to resolve, with “many more” complaints in the past two weeks.
Mr Hart added that he is concerned for Centrelink staff who are struggling to deal with the situation.

No significant increase in debt review requests, says Centrelink

27 January 2017

Claim sits in stark contrast to allegations from staff and a Centrelink compliance officer says it is misleading.
Centrelink has maintained it is not seeing any significant increase in requests to review debts generated by its controversial automated recovery system, directly contradicting the claims of its own staff.
Despite the continued criticism of the system, the Department of Human Services said the number of requests for formal review had not increased dramatically.

How to fight a Centrelink robo-debt in 10 (not so easy) steps

27 January 2017
Green Left Weekly

I became aware that Centrelink were trying to pin a cooked-up “robo-debt” of $5558 on me through a text message from the aptly named Probe group debt collection agency.
There resources about how to dispute a Centrelink debt letter, including GetUp! which has a page that sends a bunch of letters to key places in one go.
But given the large and growing number affected by this $4.5 billion heist, I thought I would share my experience of disputing the debt in 10 not exactly easy steps.

Centrelink robo-debt ’victims’ exposed

26 January 2017

Two thirds of people publicly claiming to be victims of Centrelink’s robo-debt recovery system have been exposed as owing debts to the welfare system, with some deliberately cheating taxpayers out of thousands of dollars.
One woman who had claimed to be wrongly targeted was found to have not declared an income of $37,500 from a small business while billing the taxpayer for carer and parenting payments, The Australian reports.

Glenmore Park woman "sick with stress" over $35,000 Centrelink debt

26 January 2017
Penrith City Gazette

A Glenmore Park woman has described being sick with stress after Centrelink slapped her with a $35,000 debt bill, only to have it reduced to $173 a week later.
The woman, who is known to the Gazette but wishes to remain anonymous, was caught up in the controversial Centrelink crackdown on alleged overpayments earlier this month after being informed she owed the government agency $2,795.87, but was not told why.

Centrelink staff tell welfare recipients they agree debt system is 'unjust and callous'

25 January 2017

Unionised Centrelink staff have written an open letter to welfare recipients saying they share their pain about the “unfair, unjust and callous” automated debt recovery system.
The letter was released by the Community and Public Sector Union on Wednesday, as the Department of Human Services issued its own statement lambasting the media for saying the system has a 20% error rate.

Robo debt: Centrelink staff write protest material in response to debt recovery program

25 January 2017
Canberra Times

Centrelink public servants have stepped up their internal resistance to the welfare agency's controversial "robo-debt" program, with union officials handing out protest material to clients at offices around Australia on Wednesday.
The move came as the welfare agency lashed out, again, at "unsubstantiated claims from anonymous staff" about the debt recovery program.

Losing oxygen to leakers and the media, Centrelink’s comms fall back to ‘the facts’

25 January 2017
The Mandarin

The Department of Human Services has rejected speculation that Centrelink’s automated systems generate incorrect assessments of past income and welfare entitlements in 90% of cases, as further serious claims emerge from the agency’s staff.
The new statement is naively headlined “Let’s talk about facts” — ignoring the important context that it’s hard for anyone to know what to believe out of the mix of anonymous claims from staff, the union’s ongoing campaign regarding working conditions and staffing levels at DHS, the online #notmydebt campaign, flat-out denials and semantic arguments from the department, and of course opinions in the media.

Public service bosses missing on Centrelink's robo-debt

25 January 2017
Canberra Times

Senior bosses at Centrelink are not taking responsibility for the welfare agency's "robo-debt" debacle and leaving their department's junior leaders to pick up the pieces, according to front line workers.
Centrelink staff have told their union, the CPSU, that waiting time for reviews of "debts" raised under the controversial data-matching compliance program have now blown out to 50 days when the the agency is demanding that the money is repaid in less than 28 days.

Automated Centrelink a fast track to Turnbull's demise

24 January 2017

The many leaks from appalled Centrelink staff suggest they've been discouraged from correcting obvious errors before the machine-generated demands are sent out, and discouraged from helping people in person, rather than just telling them to use the website.
It's clear this is a fishing expedition. You make what you know may often be erroneous claims for repayment, shift the onus of proof onto people with few records or resources, give them a scare, then sit back and see how much you rake in.

Centrelink debt debacle is bad policy for mental health

24 January 2017
The Conversation

The debt recovery system could hardly have been better designed to create conditions that cause chronic stress.
Its approach has potentially serious consequences. UK research shows when government policies placed new and onerous demands on people receiving welfare payments this led to an increase in mental health problems, and in suicides.
If this debt recovery program continues, it is quite possible we may see similar, adverse effects on people’s health in Australia. As such, the government should suspend the program and rethink its approach.