Social Security Debt Help in practice

In the last few issues of SSRV News, we’ve introduced Social Security Debt Help, a new free resource to help you understand Centrelink debts. This month, we’re taking a look at how people are using this great online resource.

People with a Centrelink debt often find the situation daunting. They might not know why they have a debt, what’s gone wrong, or what their options are, just that Centrelink are asking them to repay thousands of dollars seemingly out of nowhere.

In many cases the issue is very simple. A person might have misreported their income, providing Centrelink with the “net” amount (the amount that actually goes into their bank account) rather than the “gross” amount, which includes tax that was taken out.

Social Security Debt Help is designed to help that person understand what might have gone wrong, what their options are, and where they can get help.

Using the Self Help Tool, they simply enter into the website some information about their situation, and in response are given a kit, which includes things to think about and questions to ask a lawyer, financial counsellor or someone else supporting them through the process.

It provides them with information that stands them in good stead should they decide to seek help.

In this instance, the person issued the debt would likely understand that they have probably have been overpaid. They would also know that as it was an honest mistake they may still be able to have the debt waived if their situation amounts to special circumstances.

For someone escaping family violence, being told they also now owe Centrelink money can be crushing. But there are options and help available. Understanding what they are can turn a cold referral for support into a well informed and effective referral, where SSRV or another specialist can help in a targeted and effective way.

Social Security Debt Help is aimed at those supporting other people with debts too, whether that be professionals such as lawyers or community workers, or friends and family. The website can help them understand the options the person has, and get them further support if they need it.

Social Security Debt Help is available right now, and we’d love for you to check it out if you or someone you know has a debt. We always encourage people to seek legal advice before appealing a debt. Social Security Debt Help can help you get more out of that advice, and make sure you’re asking the right questions and receiving correct information.

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