Centrelink debt recovery debacle hits a new low

Federal Member for Hunter Joel Fitzgibbon has lashed out in Parliament over the Turnbull Government’s Centrelink debt recovery debacle.

Mr Fitzgibbon spoke about Denman resident Tracy Ward, who a fortnight ago, arrived home to a letter from Centrelink seeking to recover $39,581.13.

The next day Tracy Ward attended Centrelink and was told there had been a case of mistaken identity and in fact, the alleged debt was owed by a resident by the same name in a different State.

Mr Fitzgibbon praised Tracy Ward’s cool and measured response to the letter.

“Tracy received that letter late in the afternoon after returning from work.  She had to sleep on that letter. Imagine if someone less tough or less calm than Tracy Ward had received that letter. I can only imagine what the ramifications could have been,” Mr Fitzgibbon told the Parliament.

Mr Fitzgibbon shed light on the Hunter local’s display of resilience in challenging circumstances following her husband Stephen’s stroke.  

“Tracy has been an energetic contributor to her local community. That didn't change when family life grew busier and it didn't change when Stephen suffered his terrible stroke. She has had the tenacity to negotiate every hurdle of bureaucracy which has been placed in her path from Centrelink and the health system, which let them down the day of Stephen's stroke, right through to the NDIS,” Mr Fitzgibbon added.

“We've all been aware of the robo-debt recovery process and the way in which Centrelink has been gutted by this Government. I stand by Centrelink staff. I know they are doing it tough in difficult circumstances, but what happened to Tracy Ward was a disgrace.”

Centrelink is understaffed and under resourced. It’s clear that Malcolm Turnbull's cutting of 1,280 jobs from Human Services is leading to shocking Centrelink errors.


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