Our concerns over the federal government's attempt to return around $4 billion to the budget through targeting Centrelink customers were outlined in a media release on 10 January.
During an interview with Sky News on 12 January, Vinnies national CEO Dr John Falzon told presenter Laura Jayes the government was going out of its way to hound people. 'Many of whom have not been improperly paid, many of whom are struggling to survive from below the poverty line,' he said.
If you are affected by Centrelink’s automated debt recovery program and are worried about a letter from the agency, do not know how to respond, or believe a debt has been wrongly raised, there are number of things you can do.
The National Welfare Rights Network has prepared a useful fact sheet to help you with letters from Centrelink that direct you to the myGov website to confirm your income. It also gives advice if you are contacted by a debt collector about a Centrelink debt.
While Vinnies are not equipped to provide individual advice, we suggest that people who need further assistance contact a welfare rights centre or free legal advice service for help.
A list of welfare rights centres can be found at: http://www.welfarerights.org.au/organisations
Other sources of assistance and advice include:
Legal Aid Commissions – http://www.nationallegalaid.org/
Your local community legal centre – http://www.fclc.org.au/find_a_clc.php
(Provides legal information and advice. Most services are free).
Commonwealth Ombudsman – www.ombudsman.gov.au/
(Assists the public by investigating and resolving complaints about Government departments and agencies, and is undertaking its own investigation of the automated debt collection system).
Your Local Member of Federal Parliament – http://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Members/Members
You can also register your concerns on social media using either:
or on twitter at #notmydebt