Centrelink data-matching ignores those who are underpaid

Font Size:

Over the last few weeks, much has been made of the Government’s debt-recovery program but if data-matching really is the way forward, when will it be used to help those who have been underpaid or missed out on benefits altogether?

Following analysis of the Government’s Parenting Payment, The Australia Institute (TAI) uncovered that an estimated 113,176 Australian families missed out on payments. According to its paper, Match making: Using data-matching to find people missing out on Government assistance, in the year 2008-09, the amount of Parenting Payments not paid totalled $46.8 million, with one in four families missing out on payments due.

Interestingly, during its analysis, TAI found that almost the same number of people were estimated to be missing out on payments as those who were being overpaid. It also notes that while data matching can indeed identify overpayments, it doesn’t mean that the recipients were actually welfare cheats. Often it’s the complex nature of the forms, the detailed information required and the inability of people to understand the language used that results in the discrepancy.

Although the Government’s data-matching system can’t actually identify those not receiving payments they are due (as it requires a customer account to cross reference the information from other agencies), it can identify where an underpayment is being made. This is not just for the Parenting Payment, it’s also for any payments that require reporting of income, such as the Age Pension and Newstart Allowance.

Of the 1034 Australians surveyed by TAI, 75 per cent believed that the Government should do more to identify those who may be missing out on payments. TAI also concludes that with data matching being used to help people find unclaimed and lost superannuation, there is a clear need to utilse the technology to provide a similar system for welfare payments.

Read the full paper at TAI.org.au

Opinion: There can’t be different rules for all

Not only has the Government’s debt-recovery program been badly managed, it has raised questions about the fairness of the system in general.

In a week where the Minister for Health Sussan Ley stood down and later resigned due to a supposed rort in travel expenses, it was open season for the mainstream media on the Government. Tales of Julie Bishop’s trip to Portsea Polo, Mathias Cormann’s weekends in Broome and even Peter Dutton’s working dinner in the USA all hit the front pages, yet they couldn’t quite bury the debacle that has been the Centrelink debt-recovery program.

How galling for those who have received an incorrect notice of possible overpayment of benefits or have been forced in to repayment plans to see our esteemed ministers living it up at the taxpayers’ expense? And while you may think that the two issues are not connected, the reality is that both are a reflection on the failure to understand that just because something is legal, it doesn’t make it morally correct.

Sure, all of the ministers who hit the headlines, not just last week but over the last few years, for seemingly excessive travel claims may well have acted within the current guidelines, but can they honestly say they didn’t use the rules to their own personal advantage? And the Government is indeed well within its rights to instruct Centrelink to pursue those who may have been overpaid benefits, but surely it has an obligation to ensure the integrity of the system it uses to do so?

It’s not only the integrity of Centrelink’s debt-recovery process that should be called into question, but also the means for which it is used. If the system is able to flag cases where an overpayment has occurred, then surely there is a moral obligation to flag cases where the individual has been underpaid? If so, it’s one that the Government has chosen not to take on board.

Instead the onus is on the individual customer to try and make sense of the complex rules and legislation that are attached to every Centrelink payment. And, as we at YourLifeChoices see every week from the questions we receive seeking clarification of Centrelink rules and entitlements, this is far from easy.

With a recent Reachtel poll, conducted in the wake of the Centrelink debacle and the current entitlements scandal, indicating that undecided voters would, if pushed, list Labor as their first preference, perhaps a little New Year goodwill from the Government would go a long way.

What do you think? Should the Government look to clean up its own entitlement issues before chasing people who may not owe anything to Centrelink? Or are the two items completely separate? Do you think the onus should be on Centrelink to flag underpayments? Have you uncovered a Centrelink underpayment? And if so, did you find it easy to have the payment corrected?

Join YourLifeChoices today
and get this free eBook!

Join
By joining YourLifeChoices you consent that you have read and agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy

RELATED LINKS

Reports reveal Government knew about flawed system

Reports reveal that the Government knew the Centrelink debt-recovery system was flawed.

Overworked Centrelink staff brace for onslaught of calls

Overworked Centrelink staff are bracing for an onslaught of customer appeals.

Centrelink debt recovery mess – is Minister Tudge fudging?

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge has defended Centrelink's debt recovery system.

Written by Debbie McTaggart

76 Comments

Total Comments: 76
  1. 0
    0

    If the recipient is UNDERpaid, Colonel C’Link will stay away from that like it’s The Black Plague. As before, I’ve often slightly over-stated income when I have no real idea what hours I would be working on the day I had to submit income , just for safety’s sake – and never once did The Good Colonel send me a nice letter saying :- “Oops, we’ve underpaid you by $X – we’ll balance it next pay.”

    • 0
      0

      When I fill out forms for people I underestimate as you can always pay a bit back but you may miss out if you overestimate.

    • 0
      0

      Thanks for your support there, OG… one rule one way, another rule the other…. works wonders every time.

    • 0
      0

      Hi Old Geezer

      Your method of underestimate rather than overestimate is in fact an offence (to receive a payment than is greater than you are entitled to is against the Acts) and unethical (you have previously made mention you are an accountant). When declaring income to Centrelink you must provide a correct figure and you acknowledge the details are correct. If it cannot be determined then you should overestimate the figure and advise that it is an estimate and when you have the correct figures you must supply them and an adjustment will be made.

      Centrelink does not normally check for underpayments as a client may wish to receive less than their entitlement. It is up to the client to initiate a request to check. If you have been underpaid you are only entitled to receive back payments to a total of 13 weeks from the date of the request. If overpaid the period is unlimited.

    • 0
      0

      “When I fill out forms for people I underestimate “…Who in the hell are you old geezer?. The other day you wrote that you bribe Centrelink staff with hamburgers and lifts home. Now you state that you complete forms for other people with false information !

    • 0
      0

      I’ll give some examples of how I underestimate. A car is valued between $2K and $4K. I will take the lower value. Interest rates are 2.5% and the forecast is for lower rates so I will check the forecast rate for the end of the period and average the 2 rates. If I used the 2.5% I would be overestimating. Caravan and motorhomes are the worst to value. So how do you get a realistic value? You are probably looking at about half their advertised value for a quick sale now. Most people overestimate by quite a margin but they are doing themselves a disservice if they are close to or just over the limits. Most household contents are virtually worthless and in some case you have to pay to have them taken away.

      If you had ask me to say what my income was going to be at the end of this financial year back in July it would be a vastly different figure to what I would forecast today. You cannot give a correct forecast and have it spot on. It’s just a guess based on history that may be wrong.

    • 0
      0

      Do you do, or advise, that with fortnightly income for Social Security recipients, OG? That IS the subject.

      We’re not talking about asset values and estimated of future income – we’re talking about lodging a return of hard income (estimated though it may be) every two weeks with the relevant government body, and signing to its truthfulness……

    • 0
      0

      I’m not sure I understand TREBOR. How is it even possible to estimate income and then sign to its truthfulness?

      I swear Centrelink is crazy or lost in the 20th century.

      I have never had to claim than the Goddess but I have worked casual and would have no idea if I’d work one day or ten a fortnight. If they needed me then I got a call before 7:30.

      It sounds like the deeming and the 10% or 16X measure made up for defined benefits. It is an imaginary number only.

      Shouldn’t people be reporting after payday whenever that is and an appropriate program be written to deal with it?

  2. 0
    0

    I received a phone call from Centrelink wanting to know why I didn’t apply for the OAP. So it looks to me like they are already checking to see why people are not getting welfare.

    • 0
      0

      There is an old saying that can be adapted for this online forum.
      ‘Don’t put your fingers near the keyboard and people can only think you are an idiot. Put your fingers on the keyboard and type and people will know you are an idiot’

    • 0
      0

      What a lot of rubbish!

      Centrelink is checking people with under payments already.

    • 0
      0

      Centrelink can only do that if you are already on a payment. One of the advantages of the current publicity is that people are saying “you mean I can get a pension if I am working?”. Most people of this age pride themselves of not previously getting a hand out from the Govt. The politicians excessive claims are changing that and we now see more people saying if they get that then I am claiming this!

    • 0
      0

      I don’t even have a Centrelink number and have not received any payments at all from them. So it is incorrect that you have to be on payments.

    • 0
      0

      Old Geezer – I would be interested to find out how they found your contact details. Centrelink are very constrained in their data matching functions.
      I would get at least 2 enquiries a week from people have been entitled to an age pension for more than a year. Yes it is their problem not knowing but even Centrelink ‘front desk’ staff are not able to recommend an entitlement. Although FISO may do so.

    • 0
      0

      I thought it was a nuisance call when I answered the phone. From what I can work out they must have got my information from the ATO but I can’t be sure.

      It may have been as simple as someone putting me into Centrelink because they thought I should not have been getting the OAP. People make the wrong assumptions all the time about me. Sometimes it’s easier just to say thankyou with a smile as to do otherwise would cause them embarrassment.

    • 0
      0

      The ATO probably on-sold your meta-data to some commercial user…. budget bottom line is tough for the Guv, you know, and every cent counts……

  3. 0
    0

    As for politicians – thee is no argument over their entitlement to fair compensation for genuine work-related expenses – they are, after all, doing their WORK on behalf of the country. The trouble begins when they abuse that entitlement and artificially create work-related reasons to travel etc so they can claim, and not pay out of their own pocket for their person OR their Party business.

    Once again – PARTY business is NOT government business, and it is not merely sufficient that some government/opposition luminary be invited to a NYE party, a footie final or anything else, on the basis that they are that luminary. ONLY if they are actively doing something related to government work – opening a stadium (why would the Finance or Foreign Affairs Minister need to do that?).

    No more:- “Oh, come to my party for NYE as the Minister and cop your freebie.” Invitation to a party etc is on a personal basis, irrespective of who you are… the head of the AMA doesn’t cop payment for travel etc to attend a party he/she is invited to… like everyone else, they pay for it themselves.

    • 0
      0

      I agree TREBOR. How is it that a Foreign Minister can claim internal travel to a polo match and tell us that it is within her portfolio? I note that the polo match was on again last weekend but she didn’t turn up this time.

    • 0
      0

      Yes, amazing, isn’t it? As soon as they have that position, they blithely say:- “I was only invited because I am the Minister for Whatnot, so that justifies the public purse paying my way.”

      When it has nothing to do with their portfolio or electorate work, there is zero requirement for the taxpayer to fund their travel and accommodation. And that includes PARTY business as well…

      Maybe a Foreign Minister needs to know how polo is played in case he/she hob-knobs with the Pakis or Prince Charles or whatever….

    • 0
      0

      And, speaking of Foreign Ministers, when Gillard overlooked Warren Mundine as the logical replacement Senator and chose Carr who was made Foreign Minister, I wonder what the deal was. By convention, a Foreign Minister may only have his/her partner accompany them if a specific invitation asking for that is made. Carr took his wife on all trips and the questions have to be asked; was his wife invited for every trip (most unusual) or did Carr agree to the job only if his wife could travel with him.

      I don’t want to make this comment party specific but, to me, what Carr did was a total disregard of all the “guidelines” and what Turnbull has proposed may not stop this happening in the future.

    • 0
      0

      The appointment of Carr was the worse kept secret of all times.

    • 0
      0

      Yes – the appointed Secretary of State of the Gillard years….

  4. 0
    0

    It’s like claiming tax, it up to you to know what you are entitled to, not the government.
    If you were a politician would you hand back half you wages and entitlements. No, you would be like everyone else, if that’s what I get so be it. I can’t see people giving up their business class seat and go to cattle class. I can’t see pollies not taking their spouse if the rules allow it. What hypercrits we are. To stop them from using the RULES, find out who makes them and change them. Or if that fails stop the whining and become one. Theirs no university course or qualifications, just lie a lot.

  5. 0
    0

    My experience and knowledge of Centrelink is that if you have been underpaid as a result of their mistake that they will pay you the underpayment back to the point of the error.
    I know of one lady who had her benefits wrongly assessed and was told that she had an amount to pay even though only being on the pension for a short while. In her words ” the lovely young lady at Centrelink on the phone looked into the matter and said that she would have to refer to her supervisor. She did this came back to the woman and said her supervisor would contact he within the hour. This he did resolved the problem and arranged for her pension to be increased and a payment of the underpaid amount.”
    Mistakes can be made but if they are corrected and the correct payments made that is a good thing.
    I know that this is only one person but she certainly sings high her praise of this employee.
    Work with the staff and things will be achieved work against them or be abusive and you will be treated the way you should be. We can all get frustrated but rudeness gains nothing.

    • 0
      0

      Centrelink are only obliged to pay back a maximum of 14 days even when confirmed/agreed that the error was made by Centrelink.
      It is possible that when an error is found within the 14 weeks of the original claim then that may be corrected/paid. However, Centrelink have also removed the document that allows confirmation/audit of details recorded by Centrelink, so it is somewhat difficult to do that. You now need to specifically request those details.
      If during the ‘robotic’ debt process a Centrelink error is identified then a maximum of only 14 days will be repaid, not – say – 4 years.
      I agree about most Centrelink staff. Treat them with respect and you will be better off. However, they need to work with some very unfair rules.

    • 0
      0

      If you get family benefits weekly then they match it with what you have received with your tax return they will recalculate it and backdate it at least 12 months.

    • 0
      0

      Gee Old Geezer that’s great! I have been to numerous Appeal Tribunals, submitted to a number of Senate enquiries and the Greens are currently preparing Legislative change to allow more than 14 days back pay. So maybe its just age pensions?

    • 0
      0

      Apathetic,

      Do you mean 14 days or 14 weeks, I am confused by your statements. Which is correct. I am not an expert on Centrelink, but I have found them to be fair in their decisions.

    • 0
      0

      dougie – sorry trying to be brief and caused confusion. The 14 weeks applies to new applications, suspensions, rejections etc. For example, you can be back paid the suspension period if the suspension was wrong. Also with a new claim, in some circumstances, you can get a back payment to the ‘error’ date – within a 14 weeks period.
      If you are updating your records and they enter $500pf as income instead of $50pf then you only get 14 days. The same period you get to respond to a request for information – a Q002 request.
      I am aware that some age pensioners – via their MP – have been able to get back payments beyond that 14 days.

    • 0
      0

      You can claim family tax benefit up to 12 months after the end of the financial year. For 2015-2016 family tax benefit you can claim up until 30-6-2017.

      https://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/enablers/time-period-submitting-lump-sum-claims-and-confirming-income

      I know of some people who have had their OAP payments backdated years.

  6. 0
    0

    this government is the laughing stock of the world, I believe some countries are even selling tickets Tex

    • 0
      0

      Guess what tex, the ‘rest of the world’ has more important things to worry about than the internal machinations of the Australian government. No one cares!

  7. 0
    0

    It’s not the Centrelinks Staffs fault….they have been savaged with cut backs…just not enough of them to keep up with the Constant changes from Government who sacked the dead wood in a clean-out!
    Feel sorry for Staff…constant battle with ignorant and rude people….who haves issues that make them unemployable…..
    ot just unemployed.
    Bad Attitudes are never addressed so nothing changes!
    Next to being a policeman/women….
    Centrelink has to be one of the worse jobs with regard to Stress & Negativity….
    ot just from the CUstomers…..but also from their Bosses constantly changing everything and expecting les and less Staff to cope with Increasing demand!
    Thankless job….just like the Police!
    This government is Screwing everyone….even themselves!

  8. 0
    0

    The real cheats in all of this are the politicians who are happy to defraud taxpayers knowing that they can never be prosecuted for their behaviour. As always there are rules for some and (different) rules for others. Apparently id you are rich, well connected or in politics the rules for the rest of us do not apply to you.

  9. 0
    0

    Meanwhile….The real Welfare Cheats are racking up their expense accounts like their is no Tomorrow!
    And you know what….They are right for the First time!
    There will be no more LNP Party Puppets left after the Next Election!

  10. 0
    0

    Maybe Centrelink, or at least the selfsame IT system, should be used to ascertain MP salaries and ‘entitlements’ (or should it be ‘benefits’?). I’m sure any glitches will be ironed out quick smart then – nothing like self-interest to solve problems quicker!

Load More Comments

FACEBOOK COMMENTS



SPONSORED LINKS

continue reading

Food

Succulent Spice-Roasted Salmon

These little salmon bites are something I've made time and time again over the years and this method of roasting...

Photos

How to take great pictures of gardens

If you've never been too good at taking pictures of your beautiful blooms, now's the time to brush up on...

Aged Care

Paid on par with cleaners: the broader issue affecting aged care

Paid on par with cleaners: the broader issue affecting the quality of aged care Ben Farr-Wharton, Edith Cowan University; Matthew...

Food

Researchers fear diet produces ‘untoward effects on the heart’

The keto diet, lauded for its purported fat-burning capabilities, could be bad for your heart, according to new research. The...

COVID-19

Vaccine overdose cases raise questions over doctor training

Australia's vaccine rollout suffered a major hiccup, with health minister Greg Hunt revealing on Wednesday that two elderly residents at...

Retirement Income

Why middle-income Australians are the big losers in retirement

Australia's middle-income earners are losing out when it comes to retirement income. That's the view of Mercer's senior partner, David...

Food

Nine food and heart health myths busted

Should you cook with butter or olive oil? Is that drink of red wine protecting your heart? Pink Himalayan salt is healthy, right? There...

Lifestyle

What to do if your diesel car runs out of fuel

Surely, we've all had those niggling thoughts when driving about - whether what we are doing is shortening the lifespan...

LOADING MORE ARTICLE...