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05 August 2013

Minister for Human Services, Senator Jan McLucas has welcomed a report released today following an independent review of Centrepay, which makes several recommendations to strengthen the bill paying service for people receiving Centrelink payments.

Centrepay is a well-used service which helps almost 600,000 people with their budgeting through deductions from their Centrelink payments to pay rent, utilities and other items.

Almost $2 billion of payments were made through Centrepay last financial year with around 13,500 businesses participating in the program on a monthly basis.

"Centrepay alleviates some of the stress of budgeting by assisting people to manage their bills," Senator McLucas said.

The report authored by Ms Anna Buduls emphasises that individuals and participating businesses value Centrepay highly. The report makes several recommendations for the Department of Human Services to consider for improving the operation of Centrepay so it provides a robust and reliable service into the future.

"Ms Buduls has conducted a comprehensive review that makes recommendations aimed at strengthening Centrepay for the future. I want to thank her for her hard work in preparing this report," Senator McLucas said.

"I would also like to thank those organisations and individuals who made submissions and participated in the consultations for the review."

The Department supports the focus of the majority of the recommendations and recognises the need to examine existing regulatory frameworks that may be used to safeguard the

financial wellbeing of Centrepay customers and minimise additional regulatory burden on business.

"I am pleased that this report will help guide the Department to make the necessary changes and improvements."

"I have asked the Department to establish an advisory group which will bring together the welfare, finance, business and consumer sectors to provide advice on the future direction and improvements to Centrepay," Senator McLucas said. The advisory group will be chaired by a senior Department of Human Services official.

Ms Buduls was appointed to conduct the review on 21 December, 2012. Ms Buduls is a professional non-executive director on a range of public, government and private entity boards. She is also a philanthropist concentrating on disadvantage, giving her both broad business and community sector insights and experience.

Thirty-four written submissions were received. Ms Buduls met with a range of community organisations, business representatives and government agencies across Australia. Dr John Falzon, Chief Executive Officer of the St Vincent de Paul Society assisted Ms Buduls with the review.

The report is available at[6].