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.
The leftovers of Robodebt
Everyone by now is familiar with the controversy of the Robodebt system and the class action that resulted. While the “true” robodebts have gone away, there is still likely a large group of people who might see further recovery action, on the basis of information they gave to Centrelink. As you will see in the below case study, one Centrelink recipient has been told that will be from February 2022.
Those people will be able to access the same legal options as other alleged debtors: they can request reviews of their debts, and the debts can in some circumstances be waived. We would be pleased to take referrals for any such clients, but would especially like to know if you are hearing from clients that there is new debt recovery and they’re not understanding why.
Robodebt case study
We recently provided advice to Verka*, who had received a letter from Centrelink letting her know that a debt that was “parked” during the Robodebt class action would be recovered again early next year. Verka thought that her debts had all been wiped.
SSRV assisted Verka to contact Centrelink. The Centrelink officer told us there was a debt that still existed, but wasn’t able to tell us how much the debt would be because it needed to be recalculated and re-raised. We were told this would happen with “this kind of debt” from February 2022. Another client has since told SSRV that they have been told the same about a similar debt by Centrelink.
Verka has been issued at least three debts during the Robodebt period. Two of those debts were reduced to zero as a result of the Robodebt Class Action. A third was reviewed (and reduced slightly) by an Authorised Review Officer (ARO) at Centrelink after Verka provided payslips. We expect that it is this third debt, which is now based on Verka’s payslips rather than the Australian Tax Office averaging, that will be recovered from next February.
Verka falls into what was described as “Category 3” in the Robodebt Class Action. Those categories were:
- People whose alleged debts were solely from ATO averaging, who hadn’t paid any of the debt back to Centrelink. (They had their debts wiped in full).
- People whose alleged debts were solely from ATO averaging, who had paid some or all of the debt back to Centrelink. (They had their debts wiped, had money refunded to them and would receive part of the settlement).
- People who had alleged debts raised from ATO averaging, who then provided information to Centrelink such as payslips, and then had the debts recalculated on the basis of the information provided. (They had any overpayments to Centrelink refunded, but otherwise their debts stand).
- People whose alleged debts were solely from information from the person (ie. no ATO averaging was involved – their debts are not affected by the settlement).
* name changed
As noted above, we’d love to hear from you if this comes up with your clients and it isn’t made clear to them by Centrelink.
The SSRV AGM will be on 17 November 2021 at 6.30 pm by Zoom. Come along to hear about our work the last year, as well as from our guest speaker, Andrew Grech from Gordon Legal about the Robodebt class action.
RSVP by 12 November to [email protected].
Extended hours on our advice lines
The Worker Help Line and Legal Assistance Line (details below) are now both open 5 days a week.
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].
If you have any requests for CPD sessions, you can contact us on [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 Friday. We also accept referrals by email to [email protected].
Individuals can be referred to the SSRV Legal Assistance Line on 03 9481 0355 (0419 793 652 during COVID-19 remote servicing), which operates 9am to 1pm and 2pm to 5pm, Monday to Friday.