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					               QUARTERLY NEWSLETTER OF THE WELFARE RIGHTS CENTRE
                           VOLUME 23/NUMBER 2 • JUNE 2005



rights review                NEWS & COMMENT ON SOCIAL SECURITY ISSUES




budget of wrong choices
gives people on welfare
few choices
“No government should rest while ever there are Australians failing to share in the bounty that
this country has to offer,” Prime Minister Howard, May 2005.
The 2005-2006 Budget sets out the Government’s priorities and choices for the next few years.
Unfortunately, the tenth Budget brought down by the Coalition Government was, yet again, a
Budget full of wrong choices.
In making its assessment on Budget night the
National Welfare Rights Network (NWRN) said
that “Faced with an embarrassment of riches the
Government has made a series of wrong choices
in this Budget:
- the choice of risky and irresponsible tax cuts
    for the wealthy, over substantial welfare reform
    for the most disadvantaged, leaving some
    500,000 with no assistance or opportunity;
-   the choice of unnecessary and harmful
    changes to Disability Support Pension
    eligibility that will cut payments to some
    70,000;
-   the choice of slashing pensions through lower
    payment rates on the new "disability and
    parent dole";
-   the choice of new complexity instead of much
    needed simplification.
“As a result, hundreds of thousands of people on
welfare through a lack of training, experience and
employment opportunity will miss out yet again.
The scope of the welfare reform is narrow, mean
and misdirected. Too few people get any extra
assistance, payments and conditions have been                                                         (continued page 2)
cut and the Government has taken the wrong
direction with the all important disability reform.
“The Prime Minister said last week ‘reform (should
not be about) punishing welfare recipients or                                                            inside
cutting the budget’. However, the reality of the
Budget is that much of the Government’s ‘reform’       budget ....................................................... p. 3
is being paid for by people with significant           parents ..................................................... p. 5
disabilities and parents whose youngest child          budget changes ...................................... p. 8
turns six – who will get around $30 per week less      senate inquiry ......................................... p.12
       Contact                                (continued from p. 1)

     details for                              budget of wrong choices gives
    Welfare Rights                            people on welfare few choices

   T
         he contact details of the
                                              on the new ‘disability and parent       welcomes: 80,000 additional child
         Welfare Rights Centres
                                              dole’. This reform fails the Prime      care places; cuts to income tests
         involved in the
                                              Minister’s own test of fairness.        for some recipients; additional Job
   publication of the “rights
                                              “The Prime Minister also recently       Network places for those shunted
   review” are contained below.
                                              said to the Menzies Research            to the new ‘disability and parents
   For contact details of all
                                              Centre that ‘no government should       dole’; retention of suspension and
   member organisations of the
                                              rest while ever there are Australians   breaching powers with Centrelink
   National Welfare Rights
                                              failing to share in the bounty that     rather than the Job Network.
   Network please refer to the
                                              this country has to offer’. Clearly,    These are good choices for
   website
                                              the Government should not rest as       disadvantaged people but these
   www.welfarerights.org.au
                                              there is still much to be done. The     are truly modest measures in the
                                              Budget has failed to share the          light of what is needed.
   Adelaide
                                              bounty to provide opportunity to        “The Government has had its
      Welfare Rights Centre                   people with disabilities, unemployed    welfare reform plan since the
      Street address: Torrens                 parents and long term unemployed        McClure Report in 2000. It has had
      Building, 220 Victoria Square,          people.                                 the Budget surpluses to
      Adelaide, SA 5000                       “The Budget does contain a number       implement it, but so far it has been
                                              of choices which the NWRN               very half-hearted. This Budget
      Postal address: As above
                                                                                      continues that pattern.” ▼
      Telephone contact number:
      (08) 8226 4123, 1800 246 287
      Fax: (08) 8226 4124                     self-incrimination
      TTY: None
      Email: wrcsa@wrcsa.org.au               issues
   Brisbane


                                              C
                                                     entrelink was currently investigating whether Fred, in 2003,
      Welfare Rights Centre                          had failed to advise it of his income when he was in receipt
      Street address: Suite 3, 28 Old                of Newstart Allowance (NSA) and allegedly working for cash.
      Cleveland Rd, Stones Corner,            Centrelink warned that if he did not answer the questions asked, his
      QLD 4120                                NSA would be cancelled.
      Postal address: As above                 The Welfare Rights Centre advised      incriminate himself, and that
                                               Fred to explain to Centrelink that     there was no legislative basis for
      Telephone contact number:
                                               while he would be pleased to           the suspension. Centrelink
      (07) 3847 5532, 1800 358 511
                                               answer any questions relating to       accepted in this case that Fred
      Fax: (07) 3421 2500                      his current entitlement, he had the    had a current entitlement to
      TTY: (07) 3847 5533                      right not to incriminate himself and   NSA, however, the wider issue of
      Email: wrcqld@uq.net.au                  could remain silent about the past.    whether the Social Security Act
                                               Even though Centrelink did not         provides Centrelink with the
   Sydney                                      question that Fred was currently       power to suspend a person’s
                                               entitled to NSA, it suspended his      payment where the person
      Welfare Rights Centre                                                           refuses to divulge information
                                               payment on the basis that he failed
      Street address: Level 5B, 414            to answer questions about a            about a previous period remains
      Elizabeth St, Surry Hills,               previous period.                       unresolved.
      NSW 2010                                                                        This case illustrates a common,
                                               When Centrelink suspended Fred’s
      Postal address: As above                 payment a note was placed on his       and we believe mistaken,
      Telephone: (02) 9211 5300                computer record stating that the       perception amongst Centrelink
      and 1800 226 028 for people              payment was “not to be restored”.      officers that the Social Security
      calling from outside the                                                        Act provides the power to
                                               The Welfare Rights Centre then
      Sydney metropolitan area                                                        suspend current payments in
                                               began advocating on Fred’s behalf.
                                                                                      situations where Centrelink is
      Fax: (02) 9211 5268                      It took two weeks to get his
                                                                                      investigating a person’s previous
      TTY: (02) 9211 0238                      payment restored. We argued that
                                                                                      entitlement. ▼
                                               a person has a right not to
   Email:welfarerights@welfarerights.org.au



2 • rights review • JUNE 2005                                                             WELFARE RIGHTS CENTRE
                                                                                                                budget

is the “welfare to work”
agenda up to the job?
N
       ow that much of the dust has settled on the 2005- 2006 Budget and we have the chance to
       examine the few details available on how the “vision” will be put into practice, one is left with a
       sinking feeling that the grand plan for “welfare to work” has quite a few holes in it.

“rights review” explores
what you were not told
on Budget night
First, the really bad news. Parents
and people with disabilities on the
new “enhanced Newstart Allowance”
will have their payments cut – by
between $40 and $77 a fortnight –
even more if a person has additional
earnings, compared with what they
would have received under present
eligibility conditions.
job network cuts
The Department of Human Services
will take control of assessments for   measure of disadvantage – and                until an unemployed person has
the Disability Support Pension and     bingo – the problem magically                registered with the Job Network.
the new “disability dole”, and these   shrinks!                                     A preliminary analysis by ACOSS
assessments are to be contracted       further barriers                             concluded that the increased
out to private and non-government                                                   investment in childcare, wage
contractors. Under the new             The reduction in funds for the Job           subsidies and employment
Comprehensive Work Capacity            Network flies in the face of accepted        assistance for people with
Assessment, worth $316 million,        wisdom – even though                         disabilities – totalling
contractors are likely to be under     unemployment is considered to be             approximately $1.5 billion – is
pressure to provide cheap and quick    low it is concentrated among people          almost paid for by the cuts to
assessments, when what is needed       who face considerable and multiple           payments and employment
is a comprehensive medical and         barriers to entering the workforce.          assistance of $1.4 billion.
social assessment, that requires       Bringing in parents and people with
input from a range of specialists,     disabilities, who also need extra            wait in the queue
including psychologists,               support to enter the workforce,              The other sobering news that
psychiatrists and occupational         requires more money – not less.              came out a week after the Budget
therapists.                            Contrary to the Government’s                 was that the Australian Bureau of
A staggering $457.4 million in         argument, it will be harder, not             Statistics (ABS) reported that
funding is to be cut from the Job      easier, to place these groups into           there were 545,800 unemployed
Network. Access to Centrelink          employment!                                  Australians actively looking for
Personal Advisers, who provide         People with disabilities and parents         work in April, and 388,000 of those
extra help to the severely             on the new “enhanced Newstart                were looking for full-time work.
disadvantaged, such as mature age      Allowance” will not be eligible for the      Even though the unemployment
unemployed people, young people        Pensioner Education Supplement,              rate is at a 29-year low, on
at risk and released prisoners, will   worth $31.20 a week, to help with            average, an unemployed person
also be “refocused”, saving $18.6m     the costs of studying. People in             spent 37 weeks looking for work.
over four years.                       receipt of “enhanced Newstart                In addition, previous ABS data
The Government intends to change       Allowance” will not qualify for the          revealed that there were 613,000
the Job Seeker Classification          payment if they study full-time, and         workers wanting to work extra
Instrument, which will result in       will be required to test their eligibility   hours.
reduced Job Network support for        for Austudy Payment, which is paid           So, we guess that the 190,000
disadvantaged jobseekers. Clearly,     at a lower rate and which does not           additional people that the “welfare
the Government believes that the       attract Rent Assistance. As well,            to work” measures aim to get into
best way to assist disadvantaged       from September 2005, income                  the workforce, will just have to get
jobseekers is to change the            support payments shall be withheld           in the queue and wait their turn.▼

                                                                                         JUNE 2005 • rights review • 3
disability
   new second rate “disability
   dole”
   O
          ne of the main announcements in the recent Budget was the Government’s intention to legislate
           for the establishment of a new, lower rate, tougher conditions “disability dole” instead of
           Disability Support Pension (DSP) for some 70,000 people over the first three years of its
   operation.
    Under the “disability dole” a single         Allowance” will continue to be      unaffected by these changes. For
    person with no casual work will              work at award wages in the          these recipients, medical reviews
    receive about 15% less than a                open labour market;                 conducted after 1 July 2006 will
    person on DSP while a single                                                     continue to assess capacity to
                                             -   “enhanced Newstart Allowance”
    person with about 15 hours of work                                               work under the 30 hour test and
                                                 will be paid at the ordinary
    each week will receive around 20%                                                this group will have no participation
                                                 Newstart Allowance rate and
    less income than under current                                                   or activity requirements. If a person
                                                 will be subject to the allowance
    arrangements.                                                                    in this group has their pension
                                                 income and assets tests;
    Currently, a person with a disability                                            cancelled at any time, assessment
    may be eligible for DSP if               -   “enhanced Newstart Allowance”       of a new claim would be under the
    Centrelink considers that they               recipients will have part-time      15 hours test.
                                                 mutual obligation requirements
    a) have a significant level of
                                                 and will be required to             suspension of payment
    impairment under the Impairment
                                                 undertake job search activities,    Currently, DSP may be suspended
    Tables in the Act, and
                                                 which may include part-time         for up to two years (rather than
    b) cannot work or study for 30               employment, education or            cancelled) if a person starts
    hours a week or more due to their            “Work for the Dole”. Recipients     working 30 hours a week or more,
    disability for at least two years.           over 55 will be able to satisfy     or if their earnings preclude their
    If passed by Parliament, and given           requirements with voluntary         entitlement under the income test.
    that the Government assumes                  work;                               This provision has been exposed as
    control of the Senate in July, this is                                           having a number of flaws however.
                                             -   “enhanced Newstart Allowance”
    most likely, the proposed legislative                                            In the Budget, the Government
                                                 recipients will be eligible for a
    amendments would mean that from                                                  indicated that after 1 July 2006, not
                                                 Pensioner Concession Card,
    1 July 2006:                                                                     only will this suspension policy
                                                 Pharmaceutical Allowance,
    - the 30 hour work test would be             Telephone Allowance, and            continue for DSP recipients, but it
        replaced with a 15 hour test;            Employment Entry Payment. If        will be strengthened to cover
                                                 eligible for Mobility Allowance,    ceasing work for any reason within
    -   people who are assessed as                                                   the two year period.
        having a significant level of            recipients will be entitled to a
        impairment (eg 20 points as              higher rate of Mobility             new income and assets
        currently for DSP) but are               Allowance of $100 pf.               tests
        assessed as nevertheless being
        able to work 15 hours or more
                                             who will be affected                    From July 2006, around 20,000 new
        will be eligible for the new                                                 applicants for DSP each year would
                                             All claims for DSP lodged from 1
        “disability and parent dole” to be                                           be diverted from DSP to the lower
                                             July 2006 will be assessed under
        called “enhanced Newstart                                                    “disability dole”. Compared with the
                                             the 15 hour work test.
        Allowance”;                                                                  status quo, they would lose:
                                             People who claim DSP after 11
                                                                                     - $38 per week, if they are single
    -   “enhanced Newstart Allowance”        May 2005 (Budget night), but
                                                                                         and have little or no private
        will be payable to people with a     before 1 July 2006 will be
                                                                                         income ($19 per week if they
        disability whose disability limits   assessed under the 30 hour test.
                                                                                         have a partner) – around 10% to
        their work or study capacity to      However, any medical eligibility
                                                                                         15% of their total income.
        between 15 and 29 hours per          reviews after 1 July 2006 for
        week for at least two years (and     anyone in this group will be under      -   $93 per week if they are single
        to parents whose youngest            the 15 hour rule.                           and working 15 hours a week
        child has turned six – see           The Government has announced                (the minimum hours of work
        separate article);                   that people in receipt of DSP at 1          they must seek under the new
                                             July 2006 who have received                 rules) at the minimum wage –
    -   the definition of “work” when                                                    around 20% of their total
        assessing capacity to work for       pension continuously since prior to
                                             Budget night (11 May 2005), will be         income;
        DSP or “enhanced Newstart
                                                                                                       (continued page 5)




 4 • rights review • JUNE 2005                                                            WELFARE RIGHTS CENTRE
                                                                                                             parents

government announces
new “parent dole”
O
         ne of the major policy changes announced in the 2005-2006 Budget concerned the Government’s
         intention to introduce a new “disability and parent dole” at lower rates and with more harsh
         income tests than for either the current Parenting Payment or Disability Support Pension.

Under the proposals, which, given        Payment on or after 1 July 2006 will    $140). This represents an
the Government’s looming control         receive Parenting Payment while         improved income test for current
of the Senate are likely to be           their youngest child is less than       NSA recipients, but a harsher
passed with little or no amendment,      six. When their youngest child          income test for parents.
parents receiving Parenting              turns six they will be transferred to
Payment prior to 1 July 2006 will        “enhanced Newstart Allowance” and
                                                                                 $92 worse off
remain eligible for this payment,        will have to seek part-time work of     Many parents who go onto
until their youngest child turns 16      at least 15 hours a week. Single        “enhanced Newstart Allowance”
(as is currently the case). There will   parents on “enhanced Newstart           will be financially worse off
be no changes to the income test         Allowance” where the youngest           compared with those who remain
for this group but there will be         child is between six and 15, will be    on Parenting Payment. This is
changes to the participation             eligible for the Pensioner              because of two factors. First,
requirements.                            Concession Card and the                 there is a difference between the
After 1 July 2006 these parents will     Pharmaceutical Allowance.               Newstart Allowance (with child)
have one year to seek voluntary          The income test for “enhanced           rate, and the Parenting Payment,
work or from when their youngest         Newstart Allowance” will be the         equal to about $40 a fortnight.
child turns six, whichever is the        same income test as for Newstart        Second, under Parenting
later. After that, they will have to     Allowance (NSA), which is to            Payment, a person can earn $122
look for work of at least 15 hours a     change from 1 July 2006.                a fortnight before their pension is
week.                                    Compared with the current income        reduced, however, under NSA, a
                                         test, the NSA free area will be the     person can only earn $62 a
these changes will apply                 same ( at just $62 per fortnight) but   fortnight before their allowance is
to both single and                       recipients will be able to earn more    reduced under the income test.
partnered parents                        at the 50c in the dollar reduction      This means that from 1 July 2006,
receiving Parenting                      rate before the higher withdrawal       a parent on “enhanced Newstart
Payment                                  rate of 60c (currently 70c) in the      Allowance” with one child, earning
                                         dollar cuts in at $250 (currently       $200 a fortnight, would receive $92
Parents claiming Parenting
                                                                                 a fortnight less than what they
                                                                                 would receive under current
                                                                                 payment rules for Parenting
                                                                                 Payment. The Government has so
(continued from p. 4)                                                            far provided no explanation as to
                                                                                 why this cut is either necessary or
new second rate                                                                  desirable.
                                                                                 The Government has announced
“disability dole”                                                                however, that an additional 84,000
                                                                                 out of school hours childcare
-   up to $155 per week if they are      People with disabilities who study      places are to funded, though
    studying full-time (e.g. in TAFE)    full time to improve their job          critics argue that they will not
    for over six months and are          prospects are the worst affected.       meet the demand. The
    renting privately ($113 per week     They would receive Austudy              Government has not explained
    if they have a partner) – around     Payment, which is $75 pw less           whether work obligations will still
    40% to 50% of their total            than DSP and has no Rent                apply if a parent is unable to find
    income.                              Assistance (an extra loss of $49pw      suitable and affordable childcare.
                                         for those with high private rents).     A suspension provision will apply
These cuts to payments are harsh
                                         Further, they will miss out on the      from 1 July 2006, whereby
and unnecessary and should be
                                         Pensioner Education Supplement          payments could be suspended for
reconsidered. It is not necessary to
                                         of $31 pw. A total loss of $155 per     eight weeks at a time, if a person
cut people’s payments to
                                         week.▼                                  fails to meet their obligations (see
encourage them into employment
or into employment programs.                                                     page 6 for more information) ▼


                                                                                       JUNE 2005 • rights review • 5
breaches

   suspensions to replace
   breaches
   A
            fter years of campaigning for relief from the harsh and counterproductive penalties in the Social
           Security system, we should be celebrating at the Government’s Budget announcement to cease
           the breaches and penalties system from 1 July 2006.

    However, the system is to be                 period, refuse a job offer, leave   of payment only applies to third
    replaced with a very risky,                  a job voluntarily or, fail to       and subsequent activity test
    dangerous and untested system of             participate in full-time “Work      breaches. However, under the
    payment suspensions that will                for the Dole”, in the case of       proposed regime all “offences” will
    enable the immediate and total               very long-term unemployed           be treated the same. It is likely
    cessation of payment until a person          people.                             therefore that many more people
    finds out and contacts Centrelink.                                               will reach the full eight week total
                                              problems obvious                       loss of payment penalty for three
    details of new
                                              There are a number of serious          offences in one year much more
    provisions                                                                       often.
                                              problems with this proposal,
    The Minister for Workforce                which despite the Minister’s           paternalism elevated to
    Participation, Peter Dutton, has          claim, is not at all consistent with
    described the proposed compliance                                                new heights
                                              the recommendations of the
    provisions in the following terms:        Breaching Review Taskforce. In         Welfare advocates and parent
    - instead of incurring a breach, if       fact, the Taskforce considered just    organisations have raised other
       a job seeker does not comply           such a suspension model in             concerns over the impact that
       with their participation               detail, but rejected it because of     suspending a parent’s payments
       requirements, their income             the real risks and difficulties it     could have on their children.
       support payments will be               presented.                             The Minister for Workplace
       suspended by Centrelink until          The first of these is that loss of     Relations, Peter Dutton, recently
       they do comply;                        payment is total and immediate.        explained that Centrelink would
    -   after suspension, Centrelink will     The first thing an unemployed          “case manage” parents with
        attempt to contact the job            person, sole parent or person on       children whose payments were
        seeker and arrange an interview       the new “disability dole” may          suspended for eight weeks. In a
        with their provider;                  know about the suspension of           move that would appear to take the
                                              their payment is when they turn        “new paternalism” movement to
    -   if the interview is arranged within   up at the ATM to withdraw some         new heights, Centrelink would pay
        48 hours, the job seeker must         money to buy the groceries. Even       the rent and food and other bills of
        attend before the suspension is       if they have sufficient money left     single parents, so that “children
        lifted;                               to contact Centrelink immediately,     are not affected by their parent’s
    -   payment will be restored with         it could be up to 13 days since        actions”. Heaven only knows how
        the back payment to the date of       their payment was suspended. If        such a system might be
        contact with Centrelink;              Centrelink does not accept their       implemented!
                                              reason for non-compliance (eg          Apparently, Centrelink will also
    -   if the job seeker has an              episodic mental illness), they will    compile a register of “at risk”
        acceptable reason for their non-      only have their payment restored       clients who should not be subject
        compliance, as determined by          from the date of contact with          to the eight week suspension rule
        Centrelink, their payment is          Centrelink (ie a loss of 13 days       – for instance, people with mental
        restored in full;                     payment – or $370) and this may        health problems and those recently
    -   the role of the Job Network is to     not occur for a further 48 hours       widowed, separated or divorced.
        report non-compliance after           until they have attended the new       Exactly how it is planned to
        making at least two attempts to       appointment with their Job             establish this register and what the
        contact the job seeker; and           Network agency.                        criteria will be for inclusion are
                                              The second immediate problem is        unknown, but these issues
    -   to provide a deterrent to more
                                              that there will no longer be any       certainly should be the subject of
        serious failures, an eight week
                                              distinction between administrative     widespread community
        non-payment period will apply to
                                              and activity test breaches. At         consultation.
        those who, without good reason,
        fail to comply with their             present, administrative penalties
        participation requirements three      are less harsh than activity test
                                                                                                        (continued page 7)
        or more times within a 12 month       penalties and the eight week loss


 6 • rights review • JUNE 2005                                                           WELFARE RIGHTS CENTRE
                                                                                                    overpayments

surcharge to be added to
some debts
I
   n an unnecessarily harsh move, announced in the 2005-2006 Budget, the Government proposes to
   introduce a 10% surcharge on some Centrelink debts arising as a result of a person "knowingly"
   providing incorrect income details to Centrelink.
Whether or not a person                   satisfy their Centrelink notification    for the previous fortnight, often at
“knowingly” fails to provide              obligations by providing the             the request of Centrelink officers.
information or provides incorrect         information to the Australian            An incorrect estimate is often
information is a very difficult           Taxation Office with the belief that     regarded by Centrelink as an
concept to establish. Many people         this information will be passed on       attempt by the person to
who have provided Centrelink with         (in fact the belief is correct but the   “knowingly” obtain money to which
incorrect details about their income      information is passed on for the         they were not entitled.
do not do so “knowingly”, but rather      purpose of identifying debts, not for
for a myriad of reasons, including        adjusting payment levels).
                                                                                   inequitable policy
the complexity of the system, poor        The casual and temporary nature of       Where Centrelink raises a debt and
and confusing Centrelink notices,         employment and the fact that in          feels a person has knowingly or
confusion between net and gross           many cases a person’s work               intentionally failed to provide
income, as well as illiteracy. It is      payday and their Centrelink payday       information about their income, it is
also common for people to                 do not coincide may result in a          open to Centrelink to refer the
erroneously believe that they             person “estimating” their income         matter to the Director of Public
                                                                                   Prosecutions for consideration for
                                                                                   criminal prosecution. As this
                                                                                   option remains open to Centrelink
(continued from p. 6)
                                                                                   there is no reason to punish a
                                                                                   person twice by adding a
                                                                                   surcharge to their debt. Further,
suspensions to replace                                                             the criminal justice system is the
                                                                                   most appropriate forum to make
breaches                                                                           determinations as to whether
                                                                                   Social Security recipients have
many unknowns to be                       the Government has in mind. It is        committed fraud, not Centrelink.
sorted                                    likely that although Department of       This new measure only applies to
                                          Employment and Workplace                 people on workforce age Social
The transitional arrangements from        Relations (DEWR) has been                Security payments, which adds an
the current system to any new             pushing such a potentially harsh         additional element of unfairness.
“suspension” system are also              system for some time, it may not         Why should a person receiving
unknown at this point. However, in        have any clear idea as to how it         Newstart Allowance who
view of the Government’s apparent         should be implemented. It will be        “knowingly” fails to declare income
acceptance that the current regime        necessary to analyse the                 have a 10% surcharge while a
comprises too much punishment             proposals, expose any flaws, and         person receiving Age Pension who
and does not facilitate client re-        to work with the Government and          also “knowingly” fails to declare
engagement, it would seem                 DEWR to shape the legislation and        income does not? This difference
sensible to revoke or “clean slate”       the accompanying administrative          highlights concerns raised by the
any person who has a breach               guidelines as best as possible.          National Welfare Rights Network
penalty rate reduction in progress        This function will no longer be able     that splitting the responsibilities for
at the time any new system begins.        to be undertaken by the Senate.          workforce age and non-workforce
It is also unclear whether or not a       Our aim must be to make sure that        age payments between the
person will still be able to do “Work     any new system is in fact better         Department of Family and
for the Dole” to have any eight week      than the current harsh and counter-      Community Services and the
suspension of payment removed.            productive breaches regime and           Department of Employment and
                                          that there is safety and protection      Workplace Relations would lead to
Welfare Rights Centre                     for all those on Newstart Allowance      inequitable policy and outcomes for
action                                    and all those soon to be placed on       different groups of Social Security
Clearly there is still a lot to be done   the new “disability and parents          recipients.▼
at this stage just to find out what       dole”. ▼



                                                                                         JUNE 2005 • rights review • 7
budget

    budget changes at a glance
    T   he following list outlines the major announcements affecting Social Security and Family Assistance
        legislation in the recent Commonwealth Budget along with the proposed dates of effect.

    Parents                                 reduced to a standard 12 weeks          between $62 and $250 (currently
                                            prior to date of claim.                 $142) a fortnight. Income over $250
    For people who claim after 1 July                                               a fortnight will reduce payment by
    2006, Parenting Payment will only       Date of effect: 1 July 2006
                                                                                    60 cents (currently 70 cents) in the
    be payable in respect of children       List of recognised disabilities         dollar.
    under six. People whose youngest        attracting Carer Allowance (child) to
    child is six or over will be eligible                                           Students in receipt of Youth
                                            be expanded                             Allowance or Austudy Payment will
    for Newstart Allowance “enhanced”
    (see p.5 for details).                  Date of effect: 1 July 2005             continue to be subject to an income
                                                                                    test free area of $236 a fortnight,
    Date of effect: 1 July 2006             Waiting periods                         with a 50 cent in the dollar
                                            The Income Maintenance Period is        reduction for income between $236
    People with a disability                                                        and $316 a fortnight. Income above
                                            to be extended to Disability Support
    The “work test” for Disability          Pension claimants. The calculation      $316 a fortnight will reduce payment
    Support Pension eligibility will        of the Income Maintenance Period        by 60 cents in the dollar (currently
    change from 30 hours to 15 hours        is to be altered to include             70 cents). The partner income test
    for people who claim after 1 July       redundancy payouts for all working      rate reduction will also change to 60
    2006. People with a disability who      age payments except Carer               cents in the dollar (from 70 cents).
    are assessed as capable of              Payment.                                Date of effect: 1 July 2006
    working between 15 and 29 hours
                                            The Seasonal Work Preclusion
    per week will be eligible for                                                   Employment Preparation
                                            Period is to apply to all working age
    Newstart Allowance “enhanced”
                                            payments, including Disability          Employment Preparation, a new
    (see p.4 for details).
                                            Support Pension, Carer Payment          employment service provided
    Date of effect: 1 July 2006             and Parenting Payment (single).         through the Job Network, will
    People receiving “enhanced              The calculation is to be altered to     replace the Transition to Work
    Newstart Allowance” due to a            include earnings from contract and      Programme. The service will be
    disability should be eligible for       intermittent work.                      available for parents, carers and
    Mobility Allowance (at a higher         Date of effect: 20 September 2006       people over 50 who receive an
    rate of $100 pf) if they are unable                                             income support payment, with
    to use public transport to              Age Pension debt                        timing of access dependent on
    undertake job search activities or if   prevention                              whether the person has recent work
    they are required to seek work of                                               force experience.
                                            Data-matching to be enhanced to
    at least 15 hours per week.                                                     Date of effect: 1 July 2006
                                            detect and prevent overpayments
    People who lose                         due to receipt of dual payments         Introduction of “RapidConnect”, a
    entitlement to income                   from Centrelink and the Department      process whereby job seekers will
    support due to earnings                 of Veterans’ Affairs, and to prevent    generally be referred to a Job
                                            overpayments to Age Pensioners          Network member before Newstart or
    from employment
                                            receiving pensions from Italy,          Youth Allowance (unemployed)
    will continue to be eligible for        Germany, Malta, The Netherlands,        payments commence.
    Mobility Allowance.                     Ireland and Spain.
                                                                                    Date of effect: September 2005
    Date of effect: 1 July 2006             Date of effect: 1 July 2005
                                                                                    Job seekers on Newstart
    Carers                                  Allowance income test                   Allowance for long
    One-off lump sum payments to be         The income test for Newstart,           periods
    made to carers. $1,000 to be paid       Sickness, Partner, Widow, and
                                                                                    Job seekers who are still
    to Carer Payment recipients and         Mature Age Allowancees and
                                                                                    unemployed after 36 months in the
    $600 to Carer Allowance recipients      Parenting Payment (partnered) is to
                                                                                    Job Network, and who are
    ($600 in respect of each person         change.
                                                                                    considered to be “making a genuine
    receiving care).                        The current income test free area of    effort to find work”, to be assessed
    Date of effect: June 2005               $62 a fortnight will continue but the   for:
                                            formula for rate reductions will
    Period for which Carer Allowance                                                - Wage Assist (a wage subsidy
                                            change to 50 cents in the dollar
    claims can be back-dated to be                                                       payable for between 13 and 26
                                            meaning a reduction of income
                                                                                         weeks); or


 8 • rights review • JUNE 2005                                                           WELFARE RIGHTS CENTRE
                                                                                                                budget

budget changes at a glance
-   ongoing Job Network
    assistance; or
-   an annual mutual obligation
    requirement.
The Wage Assist subsidy will be
equivalent to the average rate of
Newstart Allowance (currently
$350 per fortnight), and will be
paid to employers by Job Network
members through the Job Seeker
Account.
Job seekers under 60 “with a
pattern of work avoidance” will be
referred to full-time “Work for the
Dole” for 25 hours a week, ten
months a year. Payment will be
suspended, and an eight-week
non-payment penalty will apply for
non-participation unless the
person has an acceptable reason
for not complying.
Date of effect: 1 July 2006

Changes to breach and
                                       Interest on debts                        payment rates so as to minimise
penalty regime                                                                  end of year Family Tax Benefit
Job seekers who fail to comply         Debts due to false declaration or        overpayments.
with participation requirements will   non-declaration of earnings to be
                                                                                Date of effect: 1 July 2006
generally be subject to                subject to a one-off 10% recovery
suspension of payment rather than      fee if the debtor is workforce age       Recipients who have difficulty
having a breach penalty                (excluding carers). This will replace    estimating income will also be
immediately imposed (see p.6 for       the breach rate reduction penalty        offered assistance with income
details).                              that currently applies in respect of     estimating.
                                       debts due to the recipient
Date of effect: 1 July 2006                                                     Date of effect: 1 July 2005
                                       “knowingly” or “recklessly” failing to
                                       correctly advise Centrelink of           Family Tax Benefit recipients will
Mature age job seekers                                                          be able to access their unused
                                       income.
Newstart Allowees generally to                                                  maintenance income test free area
                                       Date of effect: 1 July 2006
have the same range of possible                                                 from previous years to offset late
activity test requirements up to       Family Tax Benefit                       child support payments.
age 55, with “Work for the Dole”       changes                                  Date of effect: 1 July 2006
being the default “mutual
obligation” activity for people        Family Tax Benefit A income test         Family Tax Benefit top-ups and
between 40 and 49.                     threshold is to increase to $37,500.     income tax refunds are to be used
                                       People whose Family Tax Benefit          to offset family assistance
Newstart Allowees who are 55 or
                                       entitlement has been based on an         overpayments from previous tax
over may be able to satisfy the
                                       estimate will be advised at the end      years.
activity test by undertaking at
least 15 hours per week voluntary      of each tax year of a default            Date of effect: 1 July 2006
work, part-time work or a              estimate for the following tax year.
                                                                                For adoptions from 1 July 2004,
combination of the two.                The default estimate will reflect
                                                                                Maternity Payment to be payable
                                       movements in average weekly
Mature age people not in receipt of                                             to people who adopt a child who is
                                       earnings and will be used to
income support will be able to                                                  under two years, and to people
                                       calculate entitlement unless the
access the New Enterprise                                                       adopting a child from overseas if
                                       recipient provides an alternative
Incentive Scheme.                                                               the child is under two years at the
                                       estimate.
Date of effect: 1 July 2006                                                     time they enter Australia.
                                       Family Tax Benefit recipients are to
                                       be encouraged to adjust fortnightly      Date of effect: 1 July 2005 ▼


                                                                                       JUNE 2005 • rights review • 9
changes

                    social security changes
                    what’s happening when
      For proposed changes announced        extension of austudy                 not automatically be issued, though
      in the 2005 - 2006 Federal            and youth allowance to               a person may still qualify for a Low
      Budget, see “Budget changes at        new apprentices                      Income Health Care Card, and
      a glance” (p.8).                                                           there will be access to the “student
                                            Qualification for Youth Allowance    income bank” of up to $1,000 (any
      family tax benefit (B)                and Austudy Payment will be          existing working credits will be
      supplement                            extended to people registered        transferable).
      Introduction of a new Family Tax      under the “New Apprentices”
                                                                                                                     ▼
                                                                                 Date of proposed effect: 1 July 2005▼
      Benefit supplement of $302.95 for     scheme. Health Care Cards will
      recipients of Family Tax Benefit
      part B, with proportional rates
      payable for shared care of a child
      or children. The supplement will
                                             preclusion
      be added to the standard rate of
      Family Tax Benefit (B).
                                             period reduced
      First payments to be made in July


                                             A
      2005
                                                     nthony has a Social Security compensation preclusion
                                                    period which expires in September 2007. Anthony had
      “one off” lump sums                           injured his back and shoulder in a work accident and was
      for carers                             awarded a lump sum payment of about $260,000. Due to his
                                             injuries he was unable to undertake the heavy labouring work
      Proposed “one-off” lump sum            that he previously did.
      payments of $1,000 to people
      who were receiving Carer               When he received the lump           compensation preclusion period.
      Payment on 10 May 2005, and            sum payment Anthony was             Centrelink was provided with
      $600 to people who were                married. Shortly after the          evidence to support the
      receiving Carer Allowance              receipt of the lump sum             expenditure of the lump sum
      (multiple lump sums can be paid        payment he separated from his       money since the separation, plus
      if the person receives Carer           wife. As a result of the            the fact that he had to transfer
      Allowance for more than one            separation Anthony had to pay       assets to his ex-wife. We
      person).                               a substantial amount of money       submitted that had he not
                                             to his ex-wife as well as           separated from his ex-wife,
      First payments to be made in June
                                             transfer his interest in the        Anthony would still be residing in
      2005
                                             family home and car to her.         the family home, would not have
      accommodation bonds                    Anthony was also faced with         had to give her a substantial lump
      - assets and income                    the expense of renting his own      sum payment and would not have
                                             accommodation, purchasing           had to lease his own unit or
      test exemptions
                                             furniture for the unit and buying   purchase furniture. Further, he
      Accommodation bond payments            another used car.                   would also have access to a
      for aged care accommodation are        When Anthony contacted the          constant source of income
      to be exempt from assessment           Welfare Rights Centre he was        through either his ex-wife’s Social
      under the assets test. Also, if the    being financially supported by      Security payment or any wages
      bond is to be paid by periodic         his parents and various             she may have earned from
      payments, any rent from the            charities. We lodged a review       employment.
      former principal home is exempt        on his behalf, stating that his     Centrelink agreed with our
      from the income test and the           separation from his wife and the    submission and reduced the
      principal home is disregarded as       costs associated with the           preclusion period, allowing
      an asset.                              separation constituted “special     Anthony to be granted Newstart
      Date of effect: 1 July 2005            circumstances”, which               Allowance (NSA).▼
                                             warranted a reduction to the




 10 • rights review • JUNE 2005                                                      WELFARE RIGHTS CENTRE
                                                                                                     casework


debt waived, payment
restored
K
       aren had a Parenting Payment (single) debt of $12,000 raised against her as Centrelink alleged
       that she was a member of a couple and therefore not qualified for the payment. Karen,
       however, was adamant that she was separated from her ex-husband and appealed the decision.
Karen’s basic argument was that
she and her ex-husband, Ron, had
three children who all resided with
Karen, and that her ex-husband
had the right to visit them as often
as possible. She maintained that
the involvement of Ron in the
children’s life was a positive
influence on the children (a view
supported by research) and that she
would not prevent it.
Ron was actively involved in his
children’s life. He had not lived with
Karen since their separation in the
mid-1990s and had only stayed at
her place a few times, sleeping on
the lounge. However, he visited his
children as often as possible and
supported them where possible.
For example he attended the
children’s sporting events, school
nights and assisted his eldest
daughter to purchase a car. He also
provided care for the children when
Karen went into hospital. He also
paid maintenance for the children
and when Karen’s Parenting
Payment was cancelled he provided        was estranged from her husband.    The SSAT noted that some aspects
the family with financial support.       In examining whether Karen and     of the relationship, notably the
The Centrelink officer investigating     Ron were “living separately and    financial aspects, indicated that a
the case decided that Karen and          apart” the SSAT referred to the    marriage-like relationship had
Ron were not living “separately and      Social Security Act which          continued. But when taking into
apart” and in addition to cancelling     requires the decision maker in     account the other factors, such as
her Parenting Payment, raised a          such cases to take into account    the lack of a sexual relationship or
debt of $12,000. An appeal was           five factors when determining      any social activities shared by the
lodged to an Authorised Review           whether a person is a “member of   two, and that Karen and Ron did
Officer (ARO) who, though in two         a couple”. These factors are:      not reside together or have any real
minds about the case, upheld the                                            commitment to each other, it was
                                         - the financial aspects of the
original decision.                                                          decided that they had not been a
                                             relationship;
As Karen strongly disagreed with                                            member of a couple since the
                                         -   the nature of the household;   commencement of the debt.
Centrelink’s decision she lodged an
appeal to the Social Security            -   the social aspects of the      As Centrelink did not appeal the
Appeals Tribunal (SSAT). The SSAT            relationship;                  SSAT decision to the Administrative
interviewed both Karen and Ron at                                           Appeals Tribunal (AAT), Karen’s
                                         -   the sexual relationship        Parenting Payment was restored
length. Evidence from Karen’s
                                             between the people; and        and all monies she had repaid
neighbour and other independent
sources was provided to the SSAT,        -   the nature of the people’s     towards the debt were refunded to
all supporting Karen’s view that she         commitment to each other.      her. ▼




                                                                                  JUNE 2005 • rights review • 11
senate



    mental health senate
    inquiry
    The Senate has appointed a Senate Select Committee to inquire into mental health service provision.


    Because many of the people that        risks in maintaining secure housing.       Community mental health services
    the Welfare Rights Centre (WRC)                                                   are not adequately resourced to
    assist have a mental illness and/
                                           prosecutions                               readily prepare background reports
    or a psychiatric disability, the       People with a mental illness are           for people with Social Security
    Centre provided a submission to        vulnerable to incurring Social Security    debts.
    the Inquiry as well as appearing       debts, and to inappropriate criminal
    before it.
                                                                                      “activity tests”
                                           prosecution and/or sentences for
                                           offences relating to these debts.          Many of our clients who have a
    The main points of the
                                           Centrelink generally gives scant           mental illness may present to
    submission are as                                                                 Centrelink (and our service) as
                                           regard to the fact that a debtor may
    follows:                                                                          eccentric, aggressive, neurotic or
                                           be known to have a severe disability
    Mental illness can be a huge           such as schizophrenia. We see              paranoid. But without psychiatric
    barrier to dealing with Centrelink     cases referred to the Director of          evidence many clients with severe
    and to maintaining stable income       Public Prosecutions where a person         psychiatric disabilities face a future
    support. People with a mental          has “admitted” fault - when they were      of unstable income support due to
    illness can also face issues in        mentally ill at the time and incapable     problems satisfying Social Security
    dealing with community agencies        of complying with obligations.             activity tests and obligations
    - including agencies like the                                                     regarding notifying Centrelink of
                                           When a person with psychiatric
    WRC.                                                                              changed circumstances. Such
                                           disability or mental illness appeals
                                                                                      clients face endless interruptions
    It is rare for clients with a mental   against recovery of a debt, certain
                                                                                      to payments.
    illness seeking WRC assistance         issues may never be raised. For
    to have a community advocate.          instance:                                  Many homeless people who are
    This means that we must obtain                                                    mentally ill end up without income
                                           - their mental health problems may
    information directly from clients                                                 support for long periods merely
                                               be relevant to whether recovery of
    with severe mental illnesses,                                                     because they have been struggling,
                                               the debt should be waived, or
    including information regarding                                                   unsuccessfully, to comply with
    their mental illness.                  -   their mental state during the          activity tests and have not been
                                               period the debt accrued may have       able to claim Disability Support
    We ask clients who seem to be
                                               been such that they could not be       Pension.
    depressed, anxious or delusional
                                               said to have “knowingly” been          The fact that mental illness
    whether they have discussed the
                                               overpaid.                              severely impacts on a person’s
    “stress” they are under with their
    doctor - this being an innocuous       -   mental health issues are generally     ability to comply with “mutual
    way of broaching the subject of            not adequately considered in           obligation” activities and that
    mental illness. Unless the person          Centrelink reviews of debts. Many      treatment options are limited, are
    is suicidal or delusional, resource        of our clients may have good           factors which must be understood
    constraints of community health            grounds for waiver of debts, but       when considering labour force
    services mean that assistance              we can do nothing - because they       barriers - particularly given the
    can be ad hoc or non-existent. It          have already been convicted of a       ramifications of the 2005-2006
    is often impossible for us to link         criminal offence regarding the debt    Federal Budget proposals. ▼
    the client with a service.                 and the fact of their mental illness
    We may succeed in solving the              was never raised.
    immediate Centrelink issue, but        The WRC and criminal solicitors are
    such clients generally remain at       constrained in these cases by the
    risk of further Centrelink             speed with which Centrelink can
    problems, with consequential           move in referring cases to DPP.




 12 • rights review • JUNE 2005                                                           WELFARE RIGHTS CENTRE
                                                                                                 handbook

independent Social
Security handbook
T
      he Welfare Rights Centre (WRC) is offering community workers the opportunity to purchase the 5th
      edition of the “The Independent Social Security Handbook” for the special price of $15 (covering
      postage and handling costs only).
The 5th edition was printed in      arrangements to ensure that this       access the ONLINE EDITION of
March 2004 and since its            vital resource is available to those   the Handbook visit the National
publication there have been a       who need it.                           Welfare Rights Network website
number of changes to Social         For information about how to           www.welfarerights.org.au ▼
Security law and its
administration. These changes
mean that some sections of the
printed edition of the Handbook
are out of date, but general
sections such as information on
appeals and general Social
Security rights are still
accurate. The Centre only has
a limited number of copies
remaining so if you are
interested in purchasing a copy
please send a cheque to:
Welfare Rights Centre
Level 5, 414 Elizabeth St
SURRY HILLS NSW 2010.

online
edition
Since the publication of the
5th edition, the ONLINE
EDITION of the Handbook has
been updated every quarter
to take into account changes
to Social Security law and its
administration.
All community workers and
state government employees in
NSW can access the ONLINE
EDITION of the Handbook “free”,
due to the Centre entering into a
partnership with the NSW State
Government and its Better
Service Delivery Program.
Community workers and State
Government employees in
Tasmania, South Australia and
Western Australia also can
access the ONLINE EDITION
“free” due to the Centre and the
respective Governments in
those states entering into




                                                                               JUNE 2005 • rights review • 13
disability

    DSP safeguards need to be
    entrenched
    I
       n the lead up to the recent Budget, the National Welfare Rights Network (NWRN) publicly exposed
       the flaws in the Government’s claimed “guarantee” of suspension of DSP for two years for people on
       DSP who are successful in gaining full-time work. On Budget night, the Government at least partially
    addressed these flaws and offered a more comprehensive guarantee. However, it appears that a major
    loophole will still exist, and in the meantime, it is still risky for people to test their work capacity if they
    are hoping to fall back on DSP if the attempt does not work out.

   Section 96 of the Social Security         -   that there are inconsistencies in    in various speeches and
   (Administration) Act 1999 currently           Centrelink policy. At numerous       addresses over the last few
   provides a discretion for                     different places throughout the      months, the NWRN has
   Centrelink to suspend, rather than            Guide to Social Security Law         recommended in recent
   cancel, a person’s DSP for up to              (which sets out the policies         correspondence to the Minister:
   two years where they commence                 Centrelink must follow) there are
                                                                                      - that the discretion to suspend
   work which is either over 30 hours            statements that DSP can be
                                                                                          be made mandatory by
   per week or their DSP is reduced to           suspended for two years,
                                                                                          replacing “may” with “must” in
   nil due to income earned.                     followed by contradictory or
                                                                                          s96(1) and (3);
                                                 confusing statements that
   This discretion has been cited as
                                                 suggest DSP should be                -   that the policy governing the
   the safeguard which provides
                                                 cancelled;                               implementation of this provision
   security to people who take steps
                                                                                          be clarified to ensure a person
   to increase their participation in the    -   that where a person indicates
                                                                                          be suspended for up to two
   workforce.                                    that they have obtained work for
                                                                                          years with no medical review on
   There are however, significant                more than 30 hours per week,
                                                                                          re-entry to DSP within this
   shortcomings in both the legislation          this triggers a medical review and
                                                                                          time, regardless of the reason
   and the policies in place covering            this may be used as evidence of
                                                                                          for ceasing to be employed for
   the exercise of this discretion               failure to continue to qualify for
                                                                                          more than 30 hours per week;
   which undermine its effectiveness.            DSP. It is clear that this policy
                                                                                          and
                                                 undermines the intended
   shortcomings                                  operation of Section 96, which       -   that the 14-day notification
   These shortcomings include:                   aims to remove the need for a            requirement be replaced with a
                                                 person to go through the scrutiny        more realistic requirement.
   - that the provision provides only
                                                 of a further medical qualification
     a discretion to Centrelink to                                                    suspension of DSP
                                                 assessment by allowing
     suspend a payment. It does not
                                                 suspension for a two year period;     In last month’s Budget, the
     guarantee that suspension will
                                                 and                                  Government moved a fair way in
     occur;
                                             -   that where a person has their        the direction of these
   -   that suspension under section                                                  recommendations by announcing
                                                 DSP suspended, Centrelink
       96 is contingent on the person                                                 that where a person chooses to
                                                 policy is that it will only be
       reporting the details of                                                       work and loses eligibility for DSP
                                                 restored in the next two years if
       employment to the Secretary                                                    due to income or the 30 hour “work
                                                 they stop work because of their
       within 14 days of commencing                                                   test”, they will, after 1 July 2006,
                                                 disability. This means that
       employment. Considering the                                                    have an automatic right of return to
                                                 where a person is retrenched or
       large number of issues that a                                                  DSP, no matter what the reason for
                                                 the contract comes to an end or
       person deals with when re-                                                     ceasing to work, and without
                                                 they get sick or their
       entering the workforce, often                                                  having to undergo a medical
                                                 employment drops below 30
       without recent work experience,                                                review. This is very positive.
                                                 hours per week, their DSP would
       and often with a psychiatric or                                                However, as yet, the Government
                                                 not be reinstated.
       intellectual disability or acquired                                            has said nothing about the 14-day
       brain injury, this requirement        recommendations                          notice provision. This remains a
       can be difficult to meet (where                                                major flaw that is yet to be
       the person does not notify of         To address these issues and provide
                                                                                      addressed. ▼
       their employment within 14 days       a genuine guarantee that will
       their DSP is cancelled, not           address the genuine fear factor that
       suspended);                           the Government has acknowledged




 14 • rights review • JUNE 2005                                                            WELFARE RIGHTS CENTRE
                                                                                                   case study

what Centrelink knows but
doesn’t count
M
         rs Mara and her husband were surprised, to say the least, when a Centrelink account payable
         letter arrived on their doorstop demanding payment of just over $2,000 within 14 days for a
         Family Tax Benefit (FTB) part B debt. This was allegedly incurred during the 2002-2003
financial year.
                                      of the Family Assistance            Centrelink did not appeal the
The Maras only form of income
                                      Administration Act. The SSAT found  decision to the Administrative
during that year had been
                                      that the “special circumstances”    Appeals Tribunal (AAT) and repaid
Centrelink payments, so initially
                                      included “three very significant    Mrs Mara the money it had
they thought that Centrelink had
                                      administrative errors” and that the recovered from her in relation to
made a mistake. However, even
                                      Maras were in a “tight financial    the debt.▼
though Centrelink error was the
main reason, if not the sole reason   situation”.
for the debt, the Maras, like many
other people before them, were
about to find out how complex the
Social Security system is and how
                                       debt waived
difficult it is to have a decision

                                       R
                                               uth’s partner worked casually and both she and her partner
changed.                                       declared this income to Centrelink on the relevant forms as
Centrelink was correct in deciding             well as advising Centrelink’s TeleService Centre. Despite
that a debt existed. The reason for    this, Centrelink raised a debt of $7,200 against Ruth, stating that she
the debt was that Mrs Mara’s           had not declared her partner’s income.
Parenting Payment (PP) is in fact
“income” under the Act for FTB         An appeal was lodged to an             ARO that the entire debt could
purposes. Mrs Mara had not             Authorised Review Officer (ARO),       not be waived under the
declared the PP income on her          and the Welfare Rights Centre          administrative error waiver
FTB estimate form, on the basis        (WRC) assisted Ruth with the           provisions of the Act on the
that Centrelink knew that she was      appeal. We obtained her and her        grounds that the debt did not
in receipt of the payment. As          partner’s files under Freedom of       arise solely from administrative
reasonable an assumption that          Information (FOI) and in a written     error. This was because Ruth
may have been, the law still           submission to Centrelink listed the    had failed to notify Centrelink
required Mrs Mara to declare all       numerous times that they had           that the information it had
taxable income on the FTB              both notified Centrelink of the        recorded on the back of the
estimate form (PP is a taxable         income. Centrelink had even            notices it had sent to her about
Social Security payment and            cancelled Ruth’s partner’s             her income, and that of her
therefore is income for FTB            Newstart Allowance during the          partner, was incorrect.
purposes). As Centrelink simply        debt period due to the earnings he     The SSAT, however, waived the
coded the income declared on the       declared on his NSA form. We           remainder of the debt on the
form onto her record and did not       sought waiver of the debt on the       grounds that Ruth had “special
take into account her PP income,       grounds that administrative error      circumstances”. The SSAT
a debt accrued.                        was the cause of the debt, or in       noted that the “special
                                       the alternative that Ruth had          circumstances” included that
An appeal was lodged to the
                                       “special circumstances” which          “there had been significant and
Authorised Review Officer who
                                       would warrant waiver of the debt.      repeated Centrelink errors in this
upheld the original decision on the
                                       The ARO agreed that                    matter”; that throughout the
basis that Mrs Mara’s estimate
                                       administrative error contributed to    period of the debt Ruth had
was inaccurate, notwithstanding
                                       the debt and waived $3,500 under       suffered from a mental illness;
the fact that Centrelink knew about
                                       the administrative error waiver        that she had a very traumatic
her total family income as it was
                                       provisions of the Social Security      and tragic history prior to the
paying her the PP and paying her
                                       Act.                                   debt and that she and her
husband Newstart Allowance.
                                       Ruth lodged a further appeal to the    partner were in financial
An appeal was then lodged to the
                                       Social Security Appeals Tribunal       hardship.
Social Security Appeals Tribunal
                                       (SSAT). The SSAT agreed that           Ruth was repaid all monies that
(SSAT). The SSAT agreed that a
                                       Centrelink made many errors            Centrelink had recovered towards
debt existed, however, it found that
                                       which contributed to the debt,         the debt.▼
the debt could be waived under the
                                       however, the SSAT agreed with the
“special circumstances” provision

                                                                                  JUNE 2005 • rights review • 15
            Publications Order Form
T
     o receive a yearly subscription to “rights review” or to order the 5th edition of the Independent Social
    Security Handbook and/or the ONLINE EDITION, please complete the form below and send it with a
    cheque made out to “Welfare Rights Centre”. Alternatively, just complete and sign the credit card
payment authority. Prices are inclusive of GST. ABN 76 002 708 714



1. The hardcopy of the 5th edition of the Independent Social Security Handbook
   Please ring the Centre's Administrator for prices Ph: 9211 5389      (plus postage and handling)


2. The ONLINE EDITION of the Handbook;
    1-5 users – annual subscription:                                                                                  $99

                                                                                                                        ▲
    5-10 users – annual subscription: $20 for each additional user                                                    $198 for 10 users
    More than 10 users or multiple site usage: please contact the
    Welfare Rights Centre (WRC) on (02) 9211 5389 or 1800 226 028
    (outside Sydney metro area) to negotiate applicable annual subscription


4. Special offer Handbook ONLINE EDITION and “rights review”                                                          $110 (plus postage and handling)
   (For bulk subscription rates, please contact the Centre)                                                           (ring for rates)


5. “rights review”                                                                                                    $33 annual subscription
   (For bulk subscription rates, please contact the Centre)


6. "Welfare Rights in black and white"                                                                                $5.00 each

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Organisation .......................................................................................................................................................

Address ............................................................................................ Postcode .................................................

Email .................................................................................................................................................................

I enclose a cheque for $ ......................... payable to the Welfare Rights Centre
Or by Credit Card                   MasterCard ❐                Visa ❐           Bankcard ❐
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Send to:
                                                                Welfare Rights Centre
                                                               5B 414 Elizabeth Street
                                                                Surry Hills NSW 2010




  Please detach or photocopy this page and send with your cheque/money order/credit card details

				
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