‘Glitch’ blamed for incorrect Age Pension payments

Have you noticed any difference in your Age Pension payments recently? Perhaps you’ve been paid more than usual, or not enough?

There are reports that thousands of older Aussies who receive income support payments from Centrelink may have been paid incorrectly.

The Herald Sun is reporting that some recipients have been overpaid, while others have not been paid enough.

A confidential government document was obtained by the federal Opposition under the Freedom of Information Act and presented in question time last week. It showed 11,000 people had been impacted by the “tech glitch”. However, only 4000 had been notified, leaving 7000 unaware anything was wrong.

The documents show Services Australia, the government department that oversees Centrelink, first became aware of the issue late last year but had not informed the public.

Services Australia has been under fire recently over blowout wait times and plummeting staff levels.

And all in the wake of the Robodebt scandal, which saw thousands issued with incorrect automated debt notices, causing widespread community pain and anguish.

Income and assets tests

The government document showed thousands may have received incorrect rates of payment because customers had their superannuation incorrectly excluded from the Age Pension income and assets tests, resulting in a higher payment rate.

But Hank Jongen, Services Australia general manager, assured The Herald Sun that nobody would need to repay any money and no debt notices would be issued as a result of this incident.

He said any overpayments would be waived.

“No-one will need to repay any money as a result of this issue,” Mr Jongen said.

“We sincerely apologise for any confusion or distress it’s caused our customers.”

Paul Fletcher, shadow minister for government services, said the bungle was a reflection on the Albanese government and social services minister Bill Shorten in particular.

He says the delayed disclosure would not have happened if not for digging from the Opposition.

‘Disappointing and concerning’

“It’s deeply disappointing and concerning that it took a Freedom of Information request to find out about this processing disaster,” Mr Fletcher said in a statement.

“Now we know why. Thousands of vulnerable Australians have been unfairly caught up in a Services Australia tech glitch during a cost-of-living crisis.

“The public should have been informed of a bungle of this kind, but what we’ve seen is Bill Shorten avoiding transparency and instead sweeping the problem under the carpet because his agency is in disarray.”

Mr Jongen stressed that customers did not need to contact Centrelink about this issue. He said a dedicated team of specialised staff had been assembled and would contact any customers affected.

Have you moved on to the Age Pension in the past two years? Is the government doing enough to prevent this kind of mistake? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: Get ready now to apply for the Age Pension

Written by Brad Lockyer

Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.

14 Comments

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  1. Centrelink contacted me, told me I had been paid too much; they acted like it was MY fault! I’ve received the pension since 2005, according to them, I owe over $18,000. They now take over $220 from my fortnightly pension. THEY (or their system) made the mistake, not me, but now I have to live on $338 a fortnight.

  2. This stinks. Centerlink screwed up in calculating our pension payment last year and in spite of Robodebt supposedly being dead, took back the overpayment leaving us with insufficient pension to get by. Funny how Mr Jorgen can change his mind and when his department makes a similar mistake, just decide pensioners will not have to repay the ‘debt’ created by an overpayment. Ours was caused when CL decided we needed to claim and overseas pension we were not claiming and calculated with the other country what our pensions should be. Then a few months later they advised they had got the pension amounts wrong and just took it back over several months, paying us a minimal pension. Even worse, Services Australia on their advice cancelled all our pensioner benefits such as Licenses, Rego, Rates discount, Utility discount and Opal Cards. This is the wonderful world of the caring organization called Centerlink.

    • Terrible situation you should never have been put through.
      We have had all sorts of problems lately during a period of home sale and then relocation and repurchase . There are transaction rules for this sort of situation however on 2 occasions during a CL office visit they completely mucked the whole thing up in spite of us having all required documentation on hand. On one visit endured one and a half hours of totally confusion and frustration. In the end we demanded that a supervisor be called and then in 10 minutes all was sorted.
      We have to go back next week , with much fear and dread.
      Unfortunately there is no antidote for incompetence.

  3. i bacame eligible for a part pension in jan 23 my wife was already on a part pension I firmly believe we have been underpaid since then despite several attempts to rectify this.
    Now we have changed banks due to branch closure and when i try to reprt a change in incom e or assets there is a banner at the top preventing me due to an assessment pending (has been like this for 2 months) despite having to notifyof a change within 14 days of a transaction
    I refuse to go back into shellharbour c/link as it seems that despite them agreeing over the desk that i am correct nothing further happens . I look forward to the day we are on a full pensionwith no further dealings it will be so much easier

  4. The sooner they get rid of the misnamed behemoth that is “Services Australia” and get in a body who actually takes care of its clients the better. Why is it so easy overseas and so difficult here. Ah yes, they punish us for the hard work we did and money we saved. A universal equal pension for everyone would simplify the system so much that the CL staff would find it easier to manage.

  5. The same thing happened to me. It took two visits because the first visit they said it was fixed. Well, no it wasn’t. Second visit same thing and now after 4 months of having that banner, I’ve given up which is pretty much what they want.

  6. The Government are trying to help Older people survive. I am still working part time & receiving part pension.
    They have helped us by boosting work bonus with $4000.00 which was really good.
    BUT hang on. The taxation dept has taxed me more on my pension because we can earn before it affects our Pension.
    Also the Government has also gotten rid of middle income rebate( I think thats the one)
    of about $1400.00
    It now all comes down to that I have a Tax bill of $2646.00 I have to pay.
    I wonder how many on part pension may be in same situation.

  7. I’ve noticed a deduction in my last two fortnightly payments for an amount of $53 for “previous overpayment” but no explanation for it! I work casually and report fortnightly and have noticed on the last three payments that Centrelink already has my employment income details. I just have to verify it. So my employer submits my earnings direct to Centrelink.
    Still no explanation for the $53 deduction!

  8. My husband is on a full pension, part paid from over seas & topped up here. he has a very small annuity from his super & due to a medical episode I was forced to leave work early & I’m now on Newstart. However because my husband has such a huge salary!!! I only get just over 50% payment. I still have to jump through all the hoops doing my volunteer work that those on a full newstart get. 2 issues that annoy me, If I get half a payment why do I have to do the same amount of volunteering as those on a full payment & why do we end up only getting just over the equivalent to full newstarts?? I’ve tried querying it many times & get told my husband earns tooo much, it just doesn’t add up…

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