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Woman wins ‘straining’ $28k battle against Centrelink

Anastasia Santoreneos
·2-min read
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 09:  The Centrelink logo is seen outside of a Centrelink office on October 9, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia.  Economists expect the Australian jobs figure for September to show an unemployment rate of 6.2%.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Woman wins ‘straining’ $28k battle against Centrelink. Source: Getty

A woman has won a two-year court battle against Centrelink, after demanding she repay them nearly $28,000 in carer’s payments, which she received for her son who had special needs.

In a judgment published on Wednesday, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) found the Department of Social Services, which oversees Services Australia, had made an “administrative error” that had subsequently placed the woman, Cassandra Clark, under “additional strain...impacting on her mental health.”

While the AAT accepted Clark was overpaid, they concluded the debt should be waived due to her circumstances.

Clark was granted carer’s payments back in 2013 after she submitted an application providing Centrelink with details about her family income.

However, it was revealed Centrelink failed to correctly apply the information she had given to the department in its calculations.

In 2018, Centrelink realised it had overpaid Clark $27,857.72 over the five-year period, and in November that year, it raised a debt against Clark to recover the amount.

Clark challenged the debt, telling The ABC that she “did nothing wrong”.

In January 2019, the AAT found in Clark’s favour, and said she did not have to repay the debt. However, the Department of Social Services appealed that decision in 2020.

Last year, Clark said she felt like the debt was a “punch in the stomach”, and the appeal left her with a “sick feeling” in her stomach.

Clark said the application and income reporting process was “confusing and frustrating”, but said she was determined to fight the case.

In his judgment released this week, senior member of the AAT Chris Pulpick waived the entire debt after taking into account Clark’s “special circumstances”, noting her own personal health issues, as well as her children - one of which lives with autism, and another that was born with congenital defect to her leg.

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