centre or links.
For those of you in Upover Centrelink is Downunder's social security network. It oversees the payment of pensions, sickness benefit, unemployment allowances and more.
It is currently more in the news than usual because the government is trying to recover what they claim is $4bn in "over payments". There is a new "automated" system in place which is supposed to match up Tax Office records with money paid to individuals. Where there is a discrepancy then a letter is sent to the individual asking them to explain the discrepancy and telling them that an over payment must be refunded.
I have no problem with the "over payment" needing to be returned. I do have a problem with the way this is being done - and, more importantly, the accuracy with which this is being done. I have a problem because I have now seen too many of these letters sent out to vulnerable people.
Yesterday I was called to the local hospital. This happens occasionally. I get called on for "communication assistance" - usually between medical staff and a patient. This time though they asked if I could sort out a "Centrelink problem". I groaned inwardly. Yes, someone who was ill had been sent a letter by Centrelink claiming they owed money. This time the person was someone with a physical and intellectual disability. He can't read. He has held down a job for years. It hasn't paid much but he has never owed money to anyone. He's been in hospital for eleven weeks. Centrelink was advised. A medical certificate was sent. He is supposed to be getting something from them in order to survive. Instead they are asking him for money. It was completely confused and it was no fault of his. The one thing he has always been meticulous about is saving official looking pieces of paper. I've known him for years and I've seen the way he does it. I've always sorted out the things he needs to take to the accountant to do his tax.
He was nearly hysterical - unlike him. Illness and stress have taken their toll. The staff were worried. They like him. He isn't demanding and he doesn't complain.
I met him and the social worker who is trying to help. We sorted out what we could. He will have to pay a visit to Centrelink when he is well enough. The social worker is organising that.
But, Centrelink should come to him. They should apologise. He owes nothing. He owes society nothing. He's worked all his life. He's just turned 65 and he should be able to retire but they now expect him to work until he is 68. He's not going to get another job and his old one doesn't exist any more. He's supposed to put in applications and... well, don't get me started.
I am tired of all this. There are people out there who don't try. There are people who have never worked and don't want to work. They get more support and assistance than he does. They don't get the same sort of threatening letters.
I doubt anyone even read the medical certificate. To them T.... is just a number on a piece of paper. The computer says he should be working and that's enough for them.
Well, it isn't enough for me. T....deserves better than that....and he's going to get it.