Disabled People’s Organisations Australia (DPO Australia) calls for the Centrelink debt recovery process to be immediately halted, amid concern about the impact on people with disability.
“We are concerned that the current debt recovery process, that uses automated data matching, is particularly unfair for people with disability,” says Matthew Bowden, Co-CEO, People with Disability Australia, and spokesperson for DPO Australia.
Centrelink has recently begun to use data from the Australian Tax Office to check records about people’s income, without staff involvement or oversight. People have received debt notifications, sometimes going back six years and have had a limited time to respond.
“Many people with disability rely on social security payments to make ends meet. For those that work in casual or contract work, this new system appears to be particularly problematic,” said Mr Bowden.
“The majority of people with disability being reviewed will have been entitled to social security payments and have done nothing wrong. Cutting social security payments to recover debts in this way could leave people with disability substantially worse off, and we already know that almost half of all people with disability live in poverty. People with disability are being made more vulnerable by how these policies are implemented.
“Springing this kind of change on people just before Christmas, with no additional resources to assist them, is unacceptable.
“People with disability may need more time and support to understand the information and respond, may need the information in different, accessible formats and should have increased advocacy available to engage with the Centrelink system and manage such a stressful situation," said Mr Bowden.
“DPO Australia is calling for the Federal Government to immediately suspend this automated debt recovery system and start to sort out the mess that has been created.
“Advocacy support needs to be significantly ramped up to make sure people with disability are not disadvantaged by poorly planned and implemented changes like this in government policy,” said Mr Bowden.
DPO Australia was founded by, and is made up of the First Peoples Disability Network Australia (FPDNA) representing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with disability, the National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) representing culturally and linguistically diverse people with disability, People with Disability Australia (PWDA) a national cross disability organisation and Women With Disabilities Australia (WWDA), the national organisation representing women and girls with disability.