In 2020, when Khodar*, an Iranian refugee living in Australia, lost his job as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, his friends told him that the Australia government was assisting people who had been affected by COVID-19 and advised him to apply for JobKeeper.
When Khodar* was completing the JobKeeper application form, he noticed a question about his residency status. As his temporary visa allowed him to work lawfully in Australia, he believed that this meant he was an Australian resident and he incorrectly ticked that box.
About a year later, Khodar received a letter advising that the ATO had raised a debt of $42,000 for overpayment of JobKeeper.
When Maria*, a single mother supporting her family on Parenting Payment Single called the SSRV Legal Assistance Line, she had also been issued with a Centrelink debt. Centrelink had raised the debt following a decision that Maria was a member of a couple and not eligible for the payment.
She wasn’t. Maria had temporarily moved into the house of her former partner and children’s father when she lost her rental. A tight housing market meant that it had been months before she was able to secure a new home.
Khodar and Maria both called the SSRV Legal Assistance Line and received assistance to understand and resolve their social security legal issue.
Every person who calls SSRV’s Legal Assistance Line has a different reason for picking up the phone. They may have been turned down for a payment they believed they were entitled to; they may have been issued with a debt or had their payments reduced; they may be in a dispute with Centrelink and simply not know what their options are.
What they all have in common is that when they call SSRV’s Legal Assistance Line, they connect with a supportive SSRV team member who can provide information and help the caller to determine what further assistance SSRV or other agencies can provide. Our services are provided without judgement and with the objective of providing support to plan a pathway forward.
SSRV can provide callers with information, legal advice or legal assistance about:
- – Review rights and options if you have been refused a Centrelink payment or had your payments suspended or cancelled and you do not agree with the decision
- – Centrelink debt waivers and debt recovery issues
- – Disability Support Pension eligibility and review pathways
- – Seeking review of Centrelink decisions where you have been impacted by family violence
- – Centrelink payments are review rights for people who have been affected by a disaster, such as bushfire or flood
- – Compliance requirements, including income reporting, mutual obligation and program of support
- – Centrelink decisions relating to membership of couple issues
- – Centrelink decisions relating to income and assets issues
- – Jobkeeper debts objections
- – Status Resolution Support Payments debt waiver applications
SSRV regularly engages with clients who are experiencing a multiple, inter-connected and compounding financial difficulties.
During legal advice appointments, SSRV lawyers will enquire whether the person may benefit from also meeting with our in-house financial counsellor.
If so, and the person agrees, they may be offered an appointment with the in-house financial counsellor or referred to the National Debt Help Line.
SSRV was able to work quickly to assist Khodar to seek the debt be reconsidered. Ultimately, the entire amount of Khodar’s JobKeeper debt was waived.
Need legal help?
SSRV is a community legal centre that provides free legal services in relation to social security and Centrelink matters to people across Victoria.
Legal Assistance Line
Monday – Friday
9am-1pm and 2pm-5pm
Phone: 03 9481 0355
*Clients have been de-identified for their privacy and safety.