As of Monday December 7, welfare recipients must declare the gross amount they’ve been paid during the reporting period, rather than the amount earned, as was previously the case.
Centrelink’s new system was due to start in July but was pushed back to yesterday, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Services Australia said the change would affect all low-income earners who received a Centrelink payment or whose partner received a range of payments.
Services Australia general manager Hank Jongen previously told InDaily the new system would make it “much simpler for people to report their income to Centrelink”.
But welfare advocate Kym Mercer, who runs a Facebook group for people struggling to navigate Centrelink, said she’d heard from “hundreds” of welfare recipients in the past day who were unable to declare their income.
“It (the system) just keeps crashing. It goes round and around and around and won’t report properly,” Mercer said.
“It will let people enter all of their details … and it won’t let them submit. And if people don’t report by the right time today then they won’t get paid, and a lot of people rely on that money to come in for their direct debits that it’s too late to cancel.”
Some welfare recipients who were unable to report their earnings through the government’s MyGov application or online took to the Services Australia social media platforms on Monday to ask the government agency when the income reporting issues would be resolved.
Services Australia responded to the concerns on Facebook saying it was “aware some people” had been unable to report and was “investigating urgently”.
In a written statement, Jongen said the glitch was an “unintended consequence of an ICT (information communication technology) release”.
“A small proportion of people are experiencing issues reporting their income to us,” Jongen said.
“We’re working hard to rectify the issue and are sorry to those impacted.”
He advised low-income earners affected by the system change to call the government’s payment line.
But Family Tax and Parenting Payment recipient Katie May said she’d been trying to call the government reporting line but had received an automated voice message advising her the service operators were busy and to call back later.
She said she’d tried to submit her earnings through the government app on Monday and Tuesday morning with no luck.
May said while she would receive her low-income payments the day after she was able to report, the delay would cause her to be late on her rent.
The reporting issue is the latest in a string of system problems for the government agency.
Earlier in the year, a “glitch” in Centrelink’s system when the Newstart payment became the JobSeeker allowance caused payments to be displayed incorrectly leaving many recipients concerned their incomes would be cut.
Payment amounts were not affected.
Last month the Commonwealth also agreed to pay $112 million in compensation to about 400,000 individuals who received robodebts – a system ruled unlawful by the Federal Court.
Robodebt involved matching Australian Taxation Office and Centrelink data to take back payments from welfare recipients, and reversed the onus of proof to make the recipient prove they hadn’t been overpaid.
InDaily contacted the Department of Human Services.
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