In July 2016, Centrelink commenced piloting its automated debt recovery program. The systemic problems in this program have resulted in people, on an alarmingly large scale, being issued with
- debts they do not owe,
- debts higher than they owe,
- penalties as a consequence of insufficient appropriate avenues provided by Centrelink for people to redress discrepancies, and
- penalties as a consequence of inadequate efforts on behalf of Centrelink to confirm notification of potential debts has been received.
WACOSS is supporting the national community sector campaign being led by ACOSS (along with community legal centres, welfare rights networks, unions and others) asking the Commonwealth to address problems in the Centrelink automated debt recovery program.
If your organisation has members or clients directly affected by this, assistance and advice can be sought through the following avenues:
- Call the Department of Human Services compliance number 1800 086 400 if you are experiencing difficulty with your Centrelink online account.
- You may ask the Department of Human Services for a review by an Authorised Review Officer if an adverse decision is made
- Call DHS Feedback and Complaints on 1800 132 468 if you wish to give feedback or make a complaint
- Access resources and links to support your appeal at https://fraudstop.com.au (via Get Up).
- If you need legal advice contact your local National Social Security Rights Network organisations www.nssrn.org.au or Legal Aid www.nationallegalaid.org
- Visit the NSSRN website for factsheets to assist with these issues www.nssrn.org.au/factsheets/
- Visit the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission website for information about what to do if you are contacted by a debt collector: www.accc.gov.au/publications/debt-collection-guideline-for-collectors-creditors
- Visit the National Debt Helpline for information to assist with managing debt www.ndh.org.au
- Contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman to make a complaint
- Make a submission to the Senate Community Affairs Inquiry
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