TasCOSS prepares submission to Senate inquiry into Centrelink automated debt recovery system

Tasmanians have a chance to voice concerns over the Centrelink ‘robo-debt’ fiasco, with two public hearings for the senate inquiry scheduled in Hobart and Launceston in April. Public submissions for the inquiry are open until Wednesday.

Tasmanian Council of Social Services chief executive Kym Goodes said TasCOSS is preparing a detailed submission to the senate inquiry.

She said TasCOSS concerns include the impacts of stress on all people who have received a Centrelink ‘debt letter’, and the right of people to have income support and other “fundamental rights that should not be lost when in receipt of income support”.

Ms Goodes said the submission will also highlight the government's responsibility “to act as a ‘model litigant’ and not engage in oppressive conduct when pursuing a debt”.

TasCOSS united with other Tasmanian community service groups in early January to pool resources in response to an increase in community members asking for help dealing with Centrelink ‘debt letters’.

“The ongoing financial and emotional impact on many Tasmanians is having a huge impact on our community services,” Ms Goodes said.

The Senate referred the “design, scope, cost-benefit analysis, contracts awarded and implementation” of the federal government’s “Better Management of the Social Welfare System” overhaul initiative for inquiry in February.

Department of Human Services Secretary Kathryn Campbell told the inquiry’s public hearing in Canberra last Wednesday there were no plans to scrap the automated data-matching system but “refinements are being made”.

Ms Goodes said the number of Tasmanians asking for support from community services has “remained steady” since January, but community legal centres state wide were still reporting an increase of people asking for help with debt letters.

The state government announced $1.2 million on March 4 to “off-set reductions in Commonwealth funding” to community legal centres.