Thursday, 22 June 2017

Robodebt senate inquiry verdict - suspend robodebt

The verdict is in on the senate inquiry into robodebt, the inquiry recommending that the whole system be shut down until it's huge problems are fixed. The list of recommendations is here. There are 21 of them. Recommendation 20 is of particular interest, as in normal proceedings the creditor owed money has to leave you enough to live on. The full senate report is here.

Everyone is in agreement with this, apart from the gov of course, stubbornly insisting it's OK. Of particular concern to GetUp is that from July 1st robodebt will be targeting old aged pensioners and people on the disability support pension surviving on bugger all. GetUp has set up a web page here where you can blast your Lieberal MP or senator over robodebt.

Other organisations are equally concerned that the gov wants to continue with this flawed and unfair system.

The inquiry began hearings in March, and its chair, Greens senator Rachel Siewert, said it had exposed serious flaws in the system.

 “The evidence presented to the committee as it travelled across the country was compelling, consistent, and showed a program that was putting huge pressure on some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” Siewert said after the report’s release.

 “Procedural fairness is lacking in every stage of the robo-debt program; whether it be the forcing of people to reach back through their paperwork from six years ago, sending debt letters to the wrong address and/or not engaging with concerned recipients, or averaging out of income data, often producing incorrect results.”

 The Department of Human Services used the inquiry to highlight the changes it had made to the system, which it said had largely resolved the problems. But others say the changes don’t go far enough.

 The Australian Council of Social Service chief executive, Cassandra Goldie, said on Wednesday said the system is unworkable and must be abolished.

 “Since its adoption 12 months ago, robo-debt has issued thousands of debt notices in error to parents, people with disabilities, carers and those seeking paid work, resulting in people slapped with Centrelink debts they do not owe or debts higher than what they owe,” Goldie said. “It has been a devastating abuse of government power that has caused extensive harm, particularly among people who are the most vulnerable in our community,” she said.

 Anglicare Australia released a similar statement on Wednesday, saying the system has unfairly shifted the onus of disproving debts onto vulnerable Australians.

Its executive director, Kasy Chambers, urged the government to pay heed to the significant evidence the inquiry heard about the hardship caused by the system.

 “The shift in the onus of proof onto recipients, the barriers to people trying to fix these problems through the Centrelink system, and the growing stigmatisation of welfare, is a step towards the criminalisation of poverty and disadvantage,” Chambers said.

 “Let’s suspend this failing system and work together to design one that works for people – not just the government,” she said. The Guardian