The best of 2016: I’m pissed off with Centrelink

I have been out of work for two years now and when the Census was being done I managed to
Centrelink has now copped major backlash for the new security breach caused by a rookie mistake.

I have been out of work for two years now and when the Census was being done I managed to get fieldwork because most young people did not want to do it. I worked bloody hard for a month and believe me, I earned the money I got.

I did all the right things and reported it all to Centrelink.

I had to do this three times because they’s the way it worked out with Centrelink. I didn’t earn enough to affect my pension.

The last time I earned money was about a month ago. Today when I went to pay my rent I had not had my pension put into the bank.

I called Centrelink and ended up in an argument with them because apparently I was ‘working’. Several times I had to explain that I was not working and had four weeks work in two years, which had been reported.

Eventually the girl on the other end of the phone got her supervisor to talk to me.

“You were supposed to report again this week,” the supervisor informed me.

What part of ‘I haven’t earned any money in a month’ not to mention ‘I have reported what I earned’ were they not understanding here?

After more than 20 minutes on the phone explaining this, it seems to have finally sunk in. Yet, according to them I was still required to report in for the week despite having completed my earnings.

I cannot understand how this makes sense! If no one had informed me of such a process how was I supposed to know? As far as I was concerned I had already reported my earnings.

Finally Centrelink advises that my pension will be put into my account, but not until the following Monday. Why? Because I should have reported money I didn’t earn during the week!

It’s too bad that my rent is due and I have to live pension to pension. Try telling my landlord that they won’t be getting their payment until after its due date.

They were not interested in my plight, but did have the courtesy of informing me that I no longer needed to report to them.

Report bloody what?! That I live on the poverty line.

Centrelink really pisses me off!

Have you ever had any dealings with Centrelink? What was the experience like? What things really grind your gears? Share your stories with us.

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This piece was originally published on Starts at 60 as ‘What pisses me off: Centrelink’. It was one of our most popular contributions by the Starts at 60 community in 2016.

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  1. Yes i am sick to death of their mismanagement . I have severe emphasema and arthritis in my back neck and left hand .I applied for disability in November last year haven’t heard a word since apart of being told they are still processing my claim . I think I may be dead before they approve it .

    • alicia  

      I am so sorry to hear that Lynn, what they are doing is just disgusting, you must feel so frustrating not be able to do anything and to just hit yourself against closed doors all the time 🙁 You deserve to leave the rest of your life with a peace of mind not in frustration and anger. Hope this changes soon. I will probably be experiencing the same in a few years time 🙁 Good luck and I hope you can get what you deserve soon

      • Maryke van doornspeek  

        Ask your GP to help you .mine did .

  2. Marcellus Calleja  

    My only contact with Centrelink was when I had a letter with my superannuation statement which I wanted to drop off at Centrelink and when I asked the person behind the counter where I can drop the letter I was told to go in the queue which was about 200 meters long and ended near the car park. They could not tell me where the letterbox was located. Very frustrating and not very friendly department. I understand that they have a difficult job to do but would not hurt them to be helpful to their customers.

  3. Steve_Tonks  

    I am yet another caught up in this Centrelink debt recovery debacle.
    I was unemployed for much of the 2010/2011 financial year but I was fortunate to find some temp work between October 2010 and end June 2011. The work was cyclic being a few weeks on then a few weeks off (usually), though there was a period of 9 weeks straight where I didn’t earn any income. Every fortnight I accurately reported what income I had earned, or nil when none was earned. During this period I earned $22,913 and was paid $3414 by Centrelink for those period when I didn’t work.
    On November 22 2016 I received one of these “your income for 2010/2011 as reported to us doesn’t match what the ATO has told us.” I checked my bank statements for the period and compiled a table of what and when I had earned, what and when I had advised Centrelink and what and when Centrelink had paid me for the periods of no earned income. Armed with this I completed the online form at the mygov site as required, this was simply answering yes/no to questions with no facility to advise why there may have been a very slight difference between declared income for the period and the amount on my group certificate.
    I received a call from a lady who was handling my case on 22 December, she told me I had a debt to Centrelink of $3414 (exactly the amount they had paid me for the period I wasn’t working). I was astounded at this and asked as to how the debt had been calculated. I was informed the $22,913 I had earned had been divided by 26 and this was used to calculate an average fortnightly earned income and this average amount was above the threshold at which benefit was payable, therefore I needed to repay the $3414.
    I instantly saw the flaw in the methodology used in calculating an average income for those who hadn’t worked the whole year and raised this. I told the lady I had not earned income when I was paid a benefit and if she looked at my fortnightly income declarations she could see the periods I was not earning income. I walked her through a bunch of dates and she agreed that she could see I had declared no income for these periods however I was told she had no discretion and the only way my “debt” could be reduced or cancelled would be by me producing payslips for the period I didn’t work (???) I told her I never received a payslip when I wasn’t paid. I was left with an action to contact my previous employer and obtain a statement as to when I worked and when I didn’t. Guilty until I can prove myself innocent and failure to do so will result in a debt of $3414 plus 10%.
    I honestly and accurately reported all income earned and made declarations to this effect each fortnight. I have no debt to Centrelink and will fight this until it is overturned.
    Centrelink need to change the method of using average income for people who didn’t work the entire period. In my opinion this fiasco is a scam perpetrated by public servants and politicians on those least likely able to defend themselves.

    • I loathe injustice and Alan Tudge, Christian Porter and Malcolm Turnbull are guilty of wide ranging injustice on this issue. I hope all those of you who’re affected, who voted LNP, One Nation or any of the LNP supporting independents, in the last election, remember this at the next election and don’t go back to your old habits.

  4. Michael jones  

    I feel for all those who have had the misfortune to open up a relationship with Centrelink.
    It has been the most frustrating, vexing, annoying, depressing, experience I have ever been subjected to. The very name Centrelink, send shivers down my spine. I have yet to get confirmation of, if any, Pension payment, apparently, it’s not automatic, you have to qualify.
    I only hope I can last long enough to see it, I won’t hold my breath.

  5. patricia dick  

    I plan to be more informed come the next election. I will make sure of Labor’s plans for our aged pensions etc.
    We must all do this. Be aware of who you are voting for !

    • Robin Henry  

      Every party has an online site with their manifesto, the blurb about what they support, don’t support and what they intend to do. Every voter should read the manifestos of all the parties and choose one that best suits their needs, wants and preferences.

  6. Nicholas David Stoney  

    I worked three years after retirement age 65 till 68 under the CentreLink supposed pension bonus scheme it proved a scam after three years I was due about $15,000 I submitted details they replied you did not keep an accurate work record I was working for myself.3 years of not claiming pension they saved by me working an extra 3 years.

  7. Robin Henry  

    When I finished work on 30 JUN 12, I applied for a pension online and had to attend a Centrelink Office to prove my identity.

    I went to our local Centrelink office in early July and was the only Caucasian person in the office. Unlike most of the others, I was well dressed, clean and well groomed. After an interview with a Centrelink employee, I was told that I stood a chance of getting a Senior’s Health Care Card but not a pension.

    I didn’t expect to qualify for a pension, but was keen to get the card to at least cut the costs of my necessary medications.

    It occurred to me that Centrelink staff has an unenviable job. Compounding the challenge of working with people in dire straits, others in need and many who are impolite and abusive, the organisation appears to chop and change its rules almost monthly. That gives little chance for people to grasp what the new rules are and of course they make mistakes. Why anyone would want to work at Centrelink when there are dozens of other Australian Public Service organisations to choose from, is anyone’s guess.

    It’s a difficult and frustrating job for Centrelink employees and of course those who receive service often are unintended victims of that difficulty and frustration.

  8. Maureen  

    Fran, I can’t see why you’re not on Newstart. I assume you must be on a disability pension. You’re lucky to be on this benefit. Also ‘chronic’ means long-standing, it does not refer to the severity of an illness.

  9. Colin  

    All one ever hears about are this is not good enough blah blah blah . Tens of thousands one does not hear from suggests Centrelink is going or right . There will always be the ones who RBI k they are owed everything and no I have never been in Centrelink . The one time I was not working I delivered junk mail . There is always something to do and I pass many small shops looking for staff , it’s about time all benefits were looked at including the mob in Canberra

  10. Martinus Scheutjens  

    They don’t call us the lucky Country for nothing!! You won’t get benefits in most other countries without working for it… having said that my pension payments have been reduced from $418 fortnight to just $4.40 under new asset test, so much for planning retirement after 50 year plus in workforce?? But we are yet to hear about the positives, people who have rorted the system over the years being dealt with in your website remarks, after all there are 2 sides in every story.

  11. sheryl  

    It encourages you even more not to work if you’re going to have these sorts of problems with centrelink. Honesty used to be the best policy, but not anymore. Their computer program that was developed for them is flawed but they refuse to accept that. It’s always the customers fault, never theirs. My partner dropped in some paperwork the other day. He handed it in at the counter, then thinking that was the end of it, he got a letter the next week stating he hadn’t submitted it. He had to go back down with a copy [that we always make] and showed them. Upon opening his file, low and behold, there it was. It had been scanned in but not processed. I wish they would employ people who know what they’re doing.

  12. Jude Power  

    There’s a GETUP! petition about this cruel centrelink fiasco: PLEASE GO TO THEIR WEBSITE AND SIGN IT! The more people do so, the more likely it will be that the government will admit the system is flawed and cancel it.

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