Human Services Minister Marise Payne has ordered an investigation after convicted murderer Martin Toki was paid the Disability Support Pension for nine months while serving a lengthy jail sentence. Toki is currently serving a 22-year sentence for the 1999 murder of his girlfriend Pauline Anne Croarkin. In 2009, while serving his sentence in Goulburn jail, Toki was charged with malicious damage, but was found not guilty due to mental illness. Since that date, Toki has been detained under the Mental Health Act and held in various mental health facilities.
Toki was transferred to Sydney’s Long Bay jail hospital wing in 2010, where he applied for a Disability Support Pension and was approved to receive payments. Toki’s payments were stopped in July 2011 when Centrelink discovered Toki was serving a sentence for murder thanks to an anonymous phone tip. Under social security laws, criminals serving jail sentences are not eligible for welfare payments.
Toki appealed Centrelink’s decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal arguing that other fellow inmates in the jail’s mental health ward were being paid Disability Support Pensions.
The Abbott government has said that Centrelink’s decision to pay Toki a Disability Support Pension was a “serious administrative error”.
The money paid to Toki, totalling more than $10,000, cannot be recovered by Centrelink as it was the agency’s mistake which led to Toki being paid the Disability Support Pension pension for nine months.
Read more at www.ninemsn.com.au
The fact that a prisoner serving a 22-year sentence for murder has been paid more than $10,000 in Disability Support Pension payments is troubling. What’s even more concerning is the testimony from the prisoner that other inmates being held in mental health facilities are also receiving Disability Support Pension payments from Centrelink.
Under social security laws some mental health patients are eligible to receive the Disability Support Pension payments, but not those who are serving prison sentences at the time. So how did this error occur and has it been overlooked for years or even decades?
The public’s trust in Centrelink has slowly declined over the past few years as phone wait times and front-of-house lines steadily rise due to a lack of resources and over-worked staff. This latest debacle has certainly left me shaking my head.
Unfortunately, no one has been held responsible for this serious mistake, with ‘administrative error’ being given as the cause. No one will lose their job over this incident and chances are little will change in the application process.
I wholeheartedly support Minister Payne in ordering an investigation into every recipient of the Disability Support Pension currently in a mental health facility so that we can ensure no other administrative errors have taken place and that taxpayers money can be channelled back to the community through welfare payments to those who deserve it the most.
What do you think? Does someone at Centrelink have to lose their job over this debacle? Is this just one slip up of many more to come at Centrelink with reduced staff numbers? Were you surprised to learn that Centrelink can’t claim the money back?
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