OPINION: My anguish with Centrelink debt recovery
HUMAN Services Minister Alan Tudge needs a strong dose of reality.
Obviously Mr Tudge, with his $100,000 plus salary and seemingly unlimited taxpayer-funded expense account, has little idea of how debt recovery letters work for most people.
If he did, he wouldn't be defending Centrelink over its debacle that has seen thousands of people receive "letters of demand" for money Centrelink has now determined was wrongly handed out.
No one would argue Centrelink has a responsibility to ensure people don't abuse the system. But what is horribly wrong is how Centrelink has gone about it.
I too have received a Centrelink "debt recovery" letter and have experienced the horror, angst and frustration of working through it. It sparked frantic calls to Centrelink for information and each time I spent more than 30 minutes on hold, never ever the 11 minutes Mr Tudge apparently said it takes.
What do you think of the Centrelink system?
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It's a joke and it's ruining people's lives
It's broken and needs fixing
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I've visited Centrelink in my lunch break for answers, but after waiting in a queue I was advised Centrelink staff were on lunch and I had to use a computer.
I was also given three different sets of advice from different people, one saying I didn't owe anything, another said I was being charged $10 interest a day and yet another saying I wouldn't have to pay the interest.
Finally, after lodging a formal complaint, I got through to a human with common sense who explained how it would work and we signed a written agreement on how we would pay the debt back.
But when my family tax payment came through, Centrelink removed all the money owed from there without telling me.
Money I had planned to spend on other debts owed at a time when finances were extremely tight while paying off Centrelink in the reasonable time frame we agreed to.
The kind Centrelink man apologised, but there was really nothing that could be done.
A review into Centrelink operations is essential.
And politicians need to think very, very carefully before defending a system while their own expense account system is grossly wrong.