Tens of thousands of Australians will receive a text message advising they should stop making Centrelink debt repayments over concerns they may be unlawful.
Services Australia will issue text messages to 86,000 people to notify them their debt recovery repayments will be temporarily held as customers' employment income may have been incorrectly calculated over two decades by "unlawfully apportioning income".
A hold on raising new welfare debt in the affected group came into place after an investigation by the Commonwealth Ombudsman in August, which found an income apportionment practice used breached the Social Security Act.
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A probe into the practice - which spans from 2003 up to December 7 2020 - has this week gone a step further as repayments of those already deemed to owe money has also been stopped during an "internal review".
“We’re sending text messages to customers so they know we’ve paused recovery on their debts. We’ll also send a letter from 6 November 2023 with more information,” Services Australia said.
If you’ve got a direct debit, you don’t need to do anything as the repayment will be paused. However, if you’re making BPAY or transfers from your account, you need to stop.
“The pause will remain until we have advice on next steps. We’ll contact you about any changes,” a statement said.
The issue is not related to the "cruel" Robodebt Scheme and is instead linked to payslips being calculated in wrong reporting periods.
Has my Centrelink debt been waived?
Services Australia said those involved won't necessarily have their debts waived.
“This doesn’t mean your debt has been waived.
“While these debts are paused, they might not appear in the ‘Money you owe’ service in your Centrelink online account. However, they will appear in your debt statement.”