Government blasted for still chasing welfare debts

The welfare robodebt scheme was deemed to be illegal in November 2019 (Bigstock)

A federal watchdog has blasted the Morrison Government for continuing to chase Australians to pay their welfare debts even after it conceded its automated compliance scheme was illegal. Source: Herald Sun.

In the latest twist in the robodebt scandal, the Commonwealth Ombudsman has concluded Services Australia caused “unnecessary hardship” by continuing to pursue debts despite the high risk that they were raised with “legally insufficient” information.

And the watchdog has raised the alarm that Services Australia may try again to claw back debts that it has already had to refund, despite doubt about whether its system is now up to scratch.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison last year apologised for the “hurt or harm” caused by robodebt as the Government paid back more than 500,000 people and struck a $1.2 billion deal to avoid a class action trial.

The compliance scheme was deemed to be illegal in November 2019 because of its reliance on averaged income information from the Australian Taxation Office.

But ombudsman Michael Manthorpe found that despite the Government confirming income averaging was “legally insufficient” at the time, it continued to recover debts for months before confirming it would refund repayments and wipe debts in May last year.

In a report released yesterday, he said this “created a high degree of risk”, and Services Australia should have instead paused all debts raised under the income compliance program.

FULL STORY

Government blasted for continuing to chase welfare debts (By Tom Minnear, Herald Sun

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