The partnership between FCVic and Social Security Rights Victoria (SSRV), the Integrated Services Project (ISP), aims to improve client outcomes through financial counsellors and social security lawyers working together more effectively.
Recent case study
We recently assisted Olivia* with her Administrative Appeals Tribunal review about a debt that Centrelink had raised. Olivia is Deaf and relies on Auslan to communicate, and has limited English literacy. Olivia didn’t understand how to report her income to Centrelink and underreported, which led to the debt. Olivia’s financial counsellor referred her to SSRV and we represented her at hearing to seek a waiver of the debt for special circumstances.
We told the Tribunal about Olivia’s difficulties with accessing Centrelink that made it unfair for her to have to repay the debt. Olivia’s view was that it wasn’t fair for Centrelink to be able to recover a debt that was a result of her not being able to access Centrelink the same as a hearing person.
We noted that people who communicate with spoken languages other than English can rely on telephone interpreters to call Centrelink. Olivia didn’t understand the paperwork she received from Centrelink, or the questions on the Centrelink website.
The Tribunal Member found on the evidence that Olivia was not able to understand spoken or written English without an interpreter or translator. However, the Member was unfortunately not persuaded that Olivia’s circumstances were special enough to justify waiving the debt that she had incurred.
Olivia’s case is a good example of how hard it is to have Centrelink debts waived for special circumstances, even when someone plainly has suffered unfairness.
Integrated Practice – Better Practice Principles
Eastern Community Legal Centre (ECLC) recently released their report on better practice in integrated service delivery. ECLC has a number of integrated partnerships including a number with financial counsellors involved to respond to family violence and elder abuse.
The ECLC report is a fantastic resource for services introducing or reviewing integrated practice models. You can read the report here.
DSP Public Hearing
One of the SSRV lawyers, Dermott Williams, recently joined a Senate Community Affairs Reference Committee public hearing on the Disability Support Pension alongside Economic Justice Australia. There is another public hearing coming up on 11 October. You can read about the inquiry and the submissions made by various organisations, including FCVic and SSRV, here.
We joined the FCVic Ethical Dilemmas PD session on 30 August and really enjoyed discussing a tricky ethical situation with the members! If you have any requests for CPD sessions, you can contact us on [email protected].
We currently have postcards for the Integrated Services and DSP Help projects available as well as our Worker Help Line and General Advice Line. If any of these would be helpful to have around your office let us know and we can get some to you once the lockdown ends.
Keep in touch
SSRV is now producing a regular newsletter. If you aren’t receiving it already, you can subscribe by sending us a request with your name and preferred email address to [email protected].
Financial counsellors are invited to call the SSRV Worker Help Line on 03 9481 0655 (0429 450 346 during COVID-19 remote servicing) for information and support in assisting clients with Centrelink matters and to make referrals to SSRV. The Worker Help Line operates 9am to 5pm, Monday to Thursday. We also accept referrals by email to [email protected].
Individuals can be referred the SSRV General Advice Line on 03 9481 0355 (0419 793 652 during COVID-19 remote servicing), which operates 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm, Monday to Thursday.