Sunday 26 May 2024

Contact 1800 772 679

Contact 1800 772 679

The magazine of the Public Service Association of NSW and the Community and Public Sector Union (NSW Branch)

Problem With Centrelink? Help Is A Phone Call Away

Problem With Centrelink? Help Is A Phone Call Away

The Welfare Rights Centre is here to help PSA and CPSU NSW members in trouble.

Have you ever spent hours on the phone waiting to talk to Centrelink about Family Tax Benefit, Child Care Subsidy or a COVID-related payment? Are you confused about what Centrelink benefits you or your family might be entitled to? Has someone in your family been told they have a Centrelink debt that seems wrong or unfair? You may want to get in touch with Welfare Rights Centre.

The Welfare Rights Centre is the most experienced organisation in NSW for specialist, independent advice and assistance about social security and family assistance payments. It will provide free legal advice to PSA/CPSU NSW members and their families about any payment administered by Centrelink including where you or a family member:

  • have left employment: how to meet the ‘activity test’, waiting periods, and the income and assets test
  • can no longer work due to injury or disability: eligibility criteria, evidential requirements and waiting periods
  • need help understanding family support payments
  • are trying to sort out issues after separating: proving separation, sharing assets and care of children
  • have a Centrelink debt: appealing debts and debt waiver
  • are retiring or just planning retirement: maximising income, and access to pensions and concession cards

Their legal expertise regularly gets decisions changed and issues sorted.

If you contact the Welfare Rights Centre, make it know you are a member of the PSA/CPSU NSW so you can be fast-tracked for advice.

If your case has merit but isn’t easily resolved, a Welfare Rights Centre solicitor can represent you for free in an appeal to Centrelink or to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

A Long History of Assistance

Here are a couple of recent successes from the Welfare Rights Centre.

Sarah exhausts her leave entitlements

Sarah had worked for a government agency for a number of years before developing an illness which resulted in her taking several months off work. After she had used all of her sick leave, she accessed her annual leave, which was soon exhausted, leaving her with no income. Her rent was due and she had mounting bills.

She contacted the Welfare Rights Centre (WRC) for help and was advised she would be eligible for Jobseeker, even though she had a job to return to as she had exhausted all of her leave entitlements. WRC advised Sarah to obtain evidence from her employer that she had exhausted all of her leave entitlements and to submit this with her claim for Jobseeker.

Centrelink granted her Jobseeker. Sarah was greatly relieved for this advice as she thought she may be homeless unless she received Social Security.

Raj’s Carer Payment debt

Raj was a PSA member for more than 30 years, who resigned from work to care for his elderly mother. He applied for a Carer Payment, notifying Centrelink on his claim form about his income and assets, specifically his fortnightly superannuation pension. Centrelink made an error and did not correctly code the superannuation pension, and subsequently granted the Carer Payment at the incorrect rate. Raj assumed he was being paid the correct rate given that he had provided all relevant information to Centrelink at the time of claim. However he was being overpaid as Centrelink was not taking into account his superannuation pension. Raj’s superannuation fund sent him letters stating it would inform Centrelink of any changes to his superannuation payment – however it did not. Raj focused on caring for his mother.

After four years went by, Raj received a debt notice for more than $40,000 from Centrelink. He contacted the WRC for advice. The WRC liaised with the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal, the Freedom of Information legal team at the Department of Human Services, Centrelink and his superannuation fund through letters, and providing detailed advice to Raj on strategies and issues. The documents obtained under Freedom of Information indicated that his superannuation fund had not sent any information to Centrelink about Raj’s investment.

WRC lodged an appeal to an Authorised Review Officer seeking waiver of the debt, which was partially successful, resulting in just over $9000 of the debt being waived due to Centrelink’s administrative error.

Raj had the right to further appeal the decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). WRC advised that given there was no time limit for appealing debts to the first tier of the AAT, he should first lodge a complaint with the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal about his superannuation fund’s possible negligence, as this would be a course of action that the AAT would most likely expect him to take.

Raj followed this advice and lodged a complaint with the Superannuation Complaints Tribunal after a long wait for the decision, his appeal was unsuccessful. The Centre then lodged an appeal to the first tier of the AAT, prepared written submissions and represented Raj at the hearing. WRC was successful in having a further $10,000 waived, leading to an overall 50 per cent reduction in Raj’s debt.

Welfare Rights Centre Staff: from left, Eric Chu (Office Administrator), Donna Flood (Solicitor) Daniel Turner (Senior Solicitor), Kathrine Boyle (Executive Director).

HOW TO CONTACT THE WELFARE RIGHTS CENTRE

  • By phone: 1800 226 028 (Mondays and Wednesdays, 9:30am-to 1:30 pm) or 02 9211 5389 (Monday to Friday if the matter is urgent)
  • Anytime via www.welfarerightscentre.org.au
  • Anytime by email: [email protected]

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