Uniting Vic.Tas will today set out before a Senate Committee hearing the devastating effect that Centrelink’s Robodebt system is having on vulnerable Australians.
Uniting Vic.Tas’s Joanna Leece, giving evidence to the hearing, will tell Senators about the trauma that Centrelink’s debt collection practices have caused to many of the organisation’s consumers.
“Centrelink’s approach is damaging the financial security, wellbeing and mental health of people in our community,” says Ms Leece.
“People tell us that they want to do the right thing and pay their debts but sometimes find themselves unable to do so for reasons beyond their control. Centrelink’s workforce, systems and processes need to be more flexible and fair, able to take into account an individual’s personal circumstances.”
Uniting is calling for better debt collection practices by Centrelink. “Automatically retrieving funds from family tax benefits and tax refunds only drives vulnerable people further into poverty,” says Ms Leece.
Uniting Vic.Tas is also urging the Federal Government to establish a formal complaints process, independent of Centrelink, to monitor and report on errors.
“Australians would not accept this lack of accountability from other services, we saw that with the banking royal commission,” says Ms Leece.
“As one person told us in our consultation for this inquiry, ‘if a private company did this, Consumer Affairs would be involved’.”
Uniting Vic.Tas is also recommending to Senators that Centrelink connects into financial counselling and mental health services to help consumers get the broader support they need.
“Our welfare system should reflect the kind of Australia we want to be. A country that treats everyone with dignity and respect,” says Ms Leece.
“An income support system which enables and empowers people to create change in their lives will benefit all Australians.”