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Problems could be solved by talking to people: Anglicare Australia responds to Centrelink Automated Debt Collection

Jan 18, 2017, 11:31 AM by Beth Doherty

MEDIA RELEASE, 18 JANUARY, 2017

Anglicare Australia Executive Director Kasy Chambers has supported calls by ACOSS, the National Welfare Rights Network and others to suspend the Centrelink automated debt recovery process, and for government to sit down with the people most affected to put a more respectful process in place.

Arguing that the problems were clear before the automated roll out, Ms Chambers has questioned the process.

“It is the failure to take the impact of these processes seriously and to treat everyone concerned with respect which concerns us,” Ms Chambers said today.

“Anglicare Australia believes everyone should pay the tax they owe, and get income support and other government allowances as they need and are entitled to. We expect people to work cooperatively with government and for government to treat the people affected with respect.  For this reason, we welcome the involvement of the Ombudsman.

“Mistakes will be made in all complex systems, however it reflects particularly poorly on government Ministers who reject out of hand evidence of the inaccuracy of this clumsy process and the distress it has caused”, she said.

Reputable experts and commentators now believe that the goal of government in this debt collection has been merely to maximise revenue.

The shift in the onus of proof in these matters, combined with the difficulty in responding appropriately through the Centrelink system, along with the growing stigmatisation of welfare, is a step towards criminalisation of poverty and disadvantage.

“It doesn’t need to be like this. Anglicare Australia points to a number of government projects under way that are collaborations with the community services sector. That includes the co-design of social service grant programs. We believe it is possible to develop more effective ways for DHS to ensure under payments and over payments are picked up and corrected without surprising, confusing or unnecessarily inconveniencing people.

“Anglicare Australia members work with one in 26 Australians, many of whom rely to varying degrees on income from Centrelink. We would welcome the opportunity to bring their experience and sit around the table with other advocates for those people most affected by this initiative, relevant Ministers, officers of the Department and technical experts.

“In good spirit, it should not be too hard to find a better way” Ms Chambers said.

Media enquiries: Beth Doherty, 0432 608 310