No one likes a cheat, but it seems that is particularly the case when it comes to those who attempt to rort the welfare system as the Department of Human Services revealed that the number of public tip-offs it received about welfare fraud skyrocketed last year.
The department, which oversees Centrelink and the likes of Newstart and the Age Pension, received more than 90,000 tip-offs regarding alleged benefits fraud in the 2018-19 financial year, concerning welfare payments as well as Medicare and Child Support.
Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert said that while the majority of Aussies are honest, there are a smaller number of people who “abuse department services” in a bid to claim money they do not qualify for.
“Australians expect their Government to maintain the integrity of our highly targeted welfare system,” he said. “Meeting fraud head on is vitally important.”
Robert added: “Today’s figures are really encouraging and I commend the tens of thousands of individuals for making the call and doing their part to maintain the integrity of our welfare system.”
Welfare payments make up around one third of the government’s overall annual expenditure, totalling around $184 billion each year. This system is supported by the tax system, with the average Aussie estimated to contribute more than $7,000 of their annual income to the welfare system.
A statement released by the Department of Human Services on Sunday read: “In 2018-19, the average Australian earned $83,454 and paid $19,259 in tax. This means the average Australian makes a contribution of $7,610 of their income to our welfare system, or just over 9% of their earnings – this equates to the average Australian contributing just over a month of their working year to supporting the welfare and Medicare bills.”
Those who inform on potential rorters can do so anonymously, with the department vowing to keep their information confidential. Each tip-off is then assessed by members of a specialists team to determine whether a criminal act has been committed. Cases in which fraud is detected are then referred to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, which may lead to criminal charges and jail.
Earlier this month a Sydney grandmother was jailed for five years after it emerged that she had faked blindness in order to claim disability payments, according to the Daily Mail.
Rebecca Assie, 62, was also found to have set up a ‘school’, teaching others how to successfully rip off Centrelink to the tune of more than $137,000 over a two-year period. Her shocking story featured on Channel Nine’s A Current Affair, with the profram revealing that Assie has never been blind and even had a driver’s licence while she was claiming disability.
Reports can be made in confidence by going to humanservices.gov.au/fraud, or by calling the Australian Government Services Fraud Tip-off Line on 131 524.