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Wednesday, 26 March 2003
Page: 13734

Mr Danby asked the Minister representing the Minister for Family and Community Services, upon notice, on 16 October 2002:

(1) Has the Government placed advertisements in newspapers Australia-wide advising recipients of payments like Newstart allowance or Parenting Payment to let Centrelink know when their circumstances change in order to not only keep the social security system fair, but also so that they will not have to pay back any overpayments.

(2) Were all individuals who provided Centrelink with up-to-date information on their personal details not asked to pay back any overpayments.

(3) In 2001-2002 how many recipients of the Child Care Benefit were overpaid despite providing Centrelink with up-to-date and accurate information on their income.

(4) In 2001-2002 how many recipients of the Child Care Benefit were overpaid but later received a waiver for the overpayment.

Mr Anthony (Minister for Children and Youth Affairs) —The Minister for Family and Community Services has provided the following answer to the honourable member's question:

(1) A Government advertising campaign was run to encourage Centrelink customers to notify Centrelink whenever their personal circumstances changed as this could affect their entitlement to a social security payment. The campaign also noted that delays in notifying changes in circumstances may result in an overpayment. The campaign did not include messages regarding waiving the recovery of any overpayment a customer may have incurred. This campaign was administered by the Department of Family and Community Services.

(2) The Support the System that Supports You Campaign was designed as a preventative measure. The campaign's aim was to encourage customers to report changes in their circumstances promptly and avoid incurring a debt. In some cases, a debt has been incurred where customers failed to promptly report such changes. Normal recovery arrangements applied to the recovery of these debts.

(3) A family's exact entitlement to Child Care Benefit is determined when payments are reconciled at the end of the financial year. Reconciliation will result in overpayments being recovered and underpayments being topped up. When a family experiences a change in their circumstances, the Family Assistance Office (Centrelink) helps families get their estimate right and explains the implications of underestimating or overestimating income. Families whose estimate of income was accurate from the start of the financial year, would not have been overpaid. Families who experienced a change in their circumstances during the year and provided an updated estimate may still have experienced an overpayment for any period prior to the change.

(4) For the 2000-2001 financial year the government introduced the $1000 transitional waiver to assist families adjust to the new tax system. This waiver will not apply to the reconciliation of 2001-2002 entitlements, therefore Child Care Benefit overpayments will be subject to normal recovery arrangements.