To: Minister for Social Services Christian Porter and Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge

#FixCentrelinkNow - It's Time

#FixCentrelinkNow - It's Time

The National Union of Students (NUS) calls on the Federal Government to not only scrap Centrelink’s failed automated debt recovery system, but to reform Centrelink so university students can access income support if and when they need it, and not be penalised for doing so!

We the undersigned call on the Federal Government to:

SCRAP THE CENTRELINK AUTOMATED SYSTEM - which is sending false debt notices to income support recipients and making the lives of thousands of vulnerable people more difficult!

STOP THE CENTRELINK PAY DELAYS - by restoring funding and staff numbers to the Department of Human Services, so new income support applicants are not left waiting months to receive financial support!

LOWER THE AGE OF INDEPENDENCE TO 18 - so those living away from parents and in need of income support are able to access it, regardless of their age!

DITCH CASHLESS WELFARE CARDS - because controlling how people spend their money will not combat problems regarding drug and alcohol addiction and is an infringement on personal autonomy!

STOP CALL CHARGES AND IMPROVE CALL WAITING TIMES - by employing more call centre staff, so welfare recipients trying to do the right thing can access assistance and advice when they need it and not at a price!

AND ALLOW MORE DISCRETION IN CENTRELINK POLICIES - because the one-size-fits-all approach is not working and means some of the most vulnerable are left without support if their personal situation changes even slightly!

Why is this important?

Fixing the mess that is Centrelink will improve the lives of some of the most vulnerable in our society, giving them the best leg-up to start and in many cases, rebuild, their lives. It’s time to:

SCRAP THE CENTRELINK AUTOMATED SYSTEM
The automated system is flawed. The system is a debt recovery scheme that cross-references employment data through the ATO and Centrelink, which has created large room for error and is falsely attributing debt to vulnerable Australians. Although Labor has called for a national audit of the system, we believe enough is enough and it needs to be scrapped. The recovery of legitimate debt is important and should be done by paid staff at the Department of Human Services, not a machine!

Links to relevant articles:
http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/students-accused-of-welfare-fraud-say-centrelink-is-wrong/8127550

http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/centrelink-faces-sustained-criticism-over-its-new-automated-debt-recovery-system-20170102-gtkpq8.html

STOP THE CENTRELINK PAY DELAYS
In 2016 it was reported that up to 90,000 new applicants were left waiting months for income support, resulting in many being unable to afford necessities like rent and food. Centrelink is designed to be a safety-net, and leaving thousands with support at the start of the year needs to end. According to data collected by our Student Wellbeing Survey, run in 2016, 32% of students on Centrelink have experienced delayed payments, forcing them to borrow money from family, friends and in some cases, take out loans to make ends meet. Last year, when the delays were reported in the media, it was also reported that this had gone on for several years due to a lack of staff at the Department of Human Services, enough is enough!

Links to relevant articles:
http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/students-waiting-four-months-centrelink-payments-delayed/7346960

http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/centrelink-backlog-to-be-solved-in-two-weeks/7360760

LOWER THE CENTRELINK AGE OF INDEPENDENCE TO 18
The Centrelink Age of Independence for Youth Allowance sits at 22, making income support inaccessible to the majority of university students, particularly those starting their degrees who may have moved out of home to attend university. According to data collected by the 2016 Student Wellbeing Survey, 62% of respondents were unable to receive financial assistance from Centrelink due to the Age of Independence being set at 22. Regardless of living out of home, many students are still assessed on the basis of their parent’s income because they are under the age of 22. Young people who decide to attend university do so in the hope of educating themselves for future careers, they are the future of this country and deserve to be financially supported regardless of their age!

DITCH CASHLESS WELFARE CARDS
Cash welfare cards are not a new policy from the Federal Government, they have been used for years to police the spending of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on income support. The scheme is already in use, acting as a form of compulsory income management that is policing the expenditure of those in receipt of Centrelink, blocking them from spending their payments at particular stores. If introduced for students, cashless welfare cards will not effectively stop addiction to alcohol, drugs and gambling, but will instead police the behaviours of vulnerable people!

Links to relevant articles:
http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/malcolm-turnbull-alan-tudge-flag-national-rollout-of-cashless-welfare-card-met-by-protests-at-cashless-debit-card-trial-20161030-gsdytb.html

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/jan/09/ration-days-again-cashless-welfare-card-ignites-shame

STOP CALL CHARGES AND IMPROVE CALL WAITING TIMES
Due to funding cuts to the Department of Human Services, call-waiting times are longer than ever, which only exacerbates call charges as calls to Centrelink are charged at timed rates. According to data collected by the Student Wellbeing Survey, run in 2016, 57% of students in receipt of Centrelink have been left waiting on the phone for excessively long periods of time. Students trying to do the right thing by reporting changes in their circumstances or seeking assistance are being priced out of chasing up Centrelink and are left to the whims of an automated system!

Links to relevant articles:
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/centrelink-call-waiting-racks-up-costs-for-poor/news-story/e0a01674c64da6dc605c58d45a139005

AND ALLOW MORE DISCRETION IN CENTRELINK POLICIES
For many students on income support, the policies Centrelink is governed by often make their lives much more difficult if something goes wrong. If there is a personal or medical situation and a student needs to shift from full-time to part-time study, their payments can be lowered and in many cases cut entirely. This lack of flexibility can exacerbate an already difficult situation, putting further unnecessary pressure on individuals. We must not criminalise unemployment or mental health and the lack of flexibility with Centrelink does just that!

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If you believe it’s time to #FixCentrelinkNow, sign our petition to demand the Australian Government reform the system that is putting already vulnerable Australians into more unstable times and condemn Social Services Minister Christian Porter for attacking our lowest income earners whilst the Federal Government allows corporate giants go tax free!

Contact: NUS National Welfare Officer, Jill Molloy
Email: welfare@nus.asn.au
Phone: 0423 507 010


Reasons for signing

  • I applied for YA before moving states for uni as my course isn’t offered where I’m from. I was told I’d be given an independent rate as my move was so far. Despite moving to states I still classify as dependent as I’m not 22, therefore I had so many hoops to go through, while waiting months for processing. I eventually gave up after many attempts of contacting them. I’ve since struggled for the past 2 years borrowing thousands from family while being an out-of-home, unemployed, fulltime student.
  • Centrelink gave me a fake debt several years ago in excess of $20,000, which I have been repaying and will be repaying until I am at least 40. The debt is an error in the system and highly unfair. I dont understand how I am expected to survive comfortably, afford a home, have a career and a personal life when I will be in debt to centrelink for the majority of my life.
  • Centrelink needs to be fixed.

Updates

2017-01-25 15:55:29 +1100

500 signatures reached

2017-01-11 10:43:17 +1100

100 signatures reached

2017-01-09 18:52:41 +1100

50 signatures reached

2017-01-09 14:55:01 +1100

25 signatures reached

2017-01-09 14:12:00 +1100

10 signatures reached