Time for Centrelink to be scrapped and replaced

Contributed by Joe Montero

The personal stories of mistreatment by Centrelink just keep on coming out, as the current system continues along in just the same way, mistreating perhaps hundreds of thousands of Australians.

This is one of the worst injustices in existing in Australia, and it needs urgent attention.

Instead of acting with due care, Centrelink operates under government policy,. this means more than sitting on its hands and doing nothing. Mistreatment is systematic and the vilification of its victims is a central to applying the policy. This is what must change.

Vilification has the objective of dehumanising the target, taking away dignity, and marketing the idea that some are less deserving than the rest of us. It justifies putting them down, depriving them of a livable income and hurting them in other ways. Unemployed, single parents, people with disability, and even older people are the human side of this.

All are painted as lazy scammers out to get something for nothing and living well at everyone else’s expense. All else is overlooked. They are made out to be deserving of punishment.

The extent of the hurt is best seen through the eyes of individuals forced to go through the hardship. Peerhaps those only too ready to run down Centrelink recipients, may, if they are capable of standing in someone else’s shoes for a moment. see it differently.

Imagine how they would feel if this was happening to them. They would soon join those calling for a big change.

Here are some very recent examples.

At 64 years of age Marie Jentner, who had been looking after her husband dying of prostate cancer for two years, was suddenly forced onto Newstart. Her Carers Support was cancelled. She had been in the workforce for 45 years and paid her share of taxes. She is not going to find a job at 64.

Now her modest income has been reduced drastically, putting her in serious financial distress, to add to the heartbreak of losing her husband. Losing $200 week from what was a meager income to start with, is a major blow.

Marie Jetner and her husband

The humane response would be that older people who have little chance of getting a job should not be penalised for the circumstances they find themselves in.  Those between 55 and 64 are the biggest group of long term unemployed. They deserve a livable income and to be treated with respect.

Deanna Amato is a 33-year old government employee. A little while back she was on Austudy to get a diploma. she did manage to get some work over a period. Then Centrelink sent her a robo debt notice for $2750. Not because she had mistated her income. The system routinely calculates income from casual work as ongoing. Deana has joined others in a class action, which is taking Centrelink to court over the operation of the robo debt.

Deanna Amato

Struggling Shepparton single mother Deb Hay had to rely on family and friends to pull her through. Her benefit had been cut, after being targeted and having to jump through hoops and fill countless forms. Why? Because, she says, there is a toxic attitude towards single parents. The person is treated as if they were doing something wrong, and the slightest error will cause a slashing of income.

Deb Hay

Melbourne man Owen Bennett had his Newstart payment suspended for 6 weeks. He makes do by juggling time between part-time work and caring for his young son. He says that his suspension was caused by ‘glaring errors” provided by his employment service provider. He has put in the effort to correct this, and he believe Centrelink is “bullying” him for for it.

The suspension was for not attending a scheduled appointment. He had been texted details about appointment only hours before. Another text later on the same day, told him about the cancellation..

Owen Bennett

These are not isolated cases. Collectively.  More than half a million suspensions in a year, a flood of unjustified robo debts and putting people in insecurity and financial stress by other means is applied. There are endless hoops designed to trip up applicants. This is a system designed to do these things.

It must be scrapped and replaced by a system that is founded on the fundamental principles that everyone has a right to a livable income and be treated as a human being.  

The kinds of payment made by Centrelink are not charity. They are a basic right that we are all entitled to, if we find ourselves in circumstances in which we need them.

Our leaders are not on board, and how we treat those who are less fortunate, is a measure of the humanity in this nation.  

7 Comments on "Time for Centrelink to be scrapped and replaced"

  1. Stephanie Hicks | 21 August 2019 at 12:54 pm | Reply

    I agree with the sentiments expressed in this article. I worked for Commonwealth Rehabilitation Services when it was a part of The Department of Social Security. After working in Health and Welfare since 1980, I am appalled by how heartless the present Commonwealth Government has become toward people who are in need of assistance.
    Subcontracting to private service providers had also been a disaster.

  2. The actions of MISSINGLINK are despicable. The are parallel to and part of the mentality of government & opposition mongrel members who think that gross punitive methods should be used against people deprived of their HUMAN RIGHTS to exist in an adequate & fulfilling manner.
    These same low-life scumbags (there is no other way to adequately describe them) push this punitive acts of MISSINGLINK on the people of Australia and in an even more vicious manner on people on Naru and Manus.
    What the hell has Australia come to in the last 80 years, I ask? It is NOT the Australia my folks fought for, NOT the Australia I knew as a kid in the 1940’s.
    Today it is rapidly growing more like Adolph Hitlers Germany of the 1930’s.

  3. Barbara Young | 21 August 2019 at 4:42 pm | Reply

    Bring back CES and get rid of these useless job providers. They do not work for the unemployed. Their job is to save the government money by cutting off payments for non existent wrongdoing by welfare recipients

  4. Brenton Thomas | 22 August 2019 at 10:30 am | Reply

    The big piece everyone is missing is that the whole welfare mess is part of a policy known in the literature as “workforce activation” hence the name JobActive.

    The political theory behind this policy argues that there exists a “welfare trap” in which poverty is caused by the value of work not exceeding the value of not working. To “fix” this the value of not working has to be reduced.

    This is done by keeping benefits low and imposing various demands on people to deter them from welfare. In effect the policy intentionally punishes welfare recipients to drive them towards employment to relieve poverty.

    JobActive, the CDP, ParentsNext, the welfare card, work for the dole, the low rate of newstart, robodebt, calls for drug testing, the lousy treatment at centerlink – everything – it works together as part of this over-arching policy.

    To defeat it – the whole concept of workforce activation – of punishing the poor to relieve poverty must be attacked. You can not deal with it piecemeal.

    As long as ACOSS supports workforce activation policies – and ACOSS has stood watch over twenty years of erosion of Australia Welfare system ever since “mutual obligation” was introduced – nothing will change.

    ACOSS must stop appeasing politicians and demand they stop supporting the absurdity of punishment the poor to end poverty.

  5. Nicola Smith | 22 August 2019 at 8:22 pm | Reply

    I’m with Barbara. Jobactive and its relative DES is nothing more than a collection of untrained, incompetent spivs. I worked for the CES. We had to KNOW the labour market, know education and training, and we had brilliant labour market programs that actually helped people get into sustainable jobs. We had counsellors and psychologists on staff, we cared about people, and we tried to be a buffer protecting people against the worst of Social Security’s behaviour. And it worked.

    All there is now is a $7.3 BILLION disaster that helps no one. All it’s about is bullying, threatening and breaching people. That’s all these people know. The consolation perhaps in some small way is that that unless they reach all but impossible KPIs, their bullying days don’t last long, and they’re on the other side of the desk.

  6. same here work finished lifting up 700 lifts a day bars up to 38 kilos my back was done after 24 years of lifting , they would not put me on disability but newstar iam 60 years old no qualification , had to us my 80 thousand super up t prove i had severe degenerative spine problems tablets were 280 a month then several 300 k trips to city some one instance had to see specialist then drive home to come back on friday for mri then back in a week to see resauults. on 4th december due for spinal surgery ,but because i only get 570 a forghtnight i cannot go to the city and pay for accommodation for 2 weeks because i cannot drive home iam a single person with no contacts , so no i applied again for disabilty to help pay rates liecsense power phone have several other issues that i was born with arthritis hand can barely get out of my car 2 heart attacks cant even go to get a heart stress test . and was knocked back again . i have had 20 years of medical records thrown out and most of my specialist have retire the doctor here i have only been seeing has no record s what the hell am i supposed to do hang myself because i wont be able to pay next yars rates ??? you tell me the operation is now cancelled . i dont know what to do.you have to be dead to get disability . but they sit on their arses in canberra making all these rules and shit on hard working australian do they care no .. they say another looser hung himselfe ??? who cares ring lifeline ??? they dont pay bills arsewipes

  7. Hi,
    My DSP application has been rejected on a technicality. The so called technicality was actually an error made by a Centrelink employee after my initial claim was handed in to a service officer at a Centrelink office.
    There were other discrepancies and conflicting information from Centrelink and my disability employment services agency.
    I was told by a Centrelink DSP customer service officer that Centrelink would take no responsibility for this error that they made.
    Through no fault of my own, I am now advised that I have to reapply for the DSP again.
    It took nearly 4 months and numerous lengthy waits re phone calls to Centrelink to track the progress of my DSP application before I managed to find out that it had been rejected.
    I am going into hospital for major surgery early next month.
    I have other medical conditions as well.
    I live alone, don’t have a car, I am on crutches now after waiting for over 2 years for surgery.
    I can’t get the MyGov apps on my mobile because it’s an old second hand phone without the original PIN number.
    I can’t fathom how I am supposed to take care of myself on Jobseeker in the many months following recovery from surgery. I will not be able to work at all.
    I now also need other surgery ( another 2 years+ wait) because my medical condition deteriorated due to having to wait so long for the upcoming surgery.
    This system, re Centrelink is diabolically broken, unfair, confusing, fraught with errors and isolating.
    Signed Desperate!!!

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