Monday, 04 November 2019
ALLYSON HORN: Lucy Ford thought she’d done everything right for the government’s new child care subsidy, but she’s just been slapped with a $250 debt.
LUCY FORD: It’s so stressful, if we hadn’t have overestimated our income we would owe thousands of dollars.
HORN: Under the scheme parents must report to Centrelink every time their income or work hours change. Those figures are then balanced at the end of financial year against a tax return to determine if the family has received the correct subsidy payment. The Ford Family overestimated their income by $12,000 and when Lucy’s working hours changed she amended them online, but she claims those entires have now disappeared.
FORD: All my activity hours had been deleted so there was just none on there for the last financial year.
HORN: The ABC understands Centrelink has received multiple complaints from parents about their data log disappearing.
AMANDA RISHWORTH MP, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT: And on ringing up Centrelink, they’ve found it was a system glitch that wiped their data and in fact they didn’t even owe a debt.
HORN: More than half a million families have had their balancing completed, and of them 90,000 have accrued a debt. But only a fraction have requested a formal internal review.
RISHWORTH: I’m worried for all those families that haven’t had the time, the energy, they’ve just received this letter and thought well Centrelink must be right and paid that debt.
HORN: The childcare industry has asked the government to simplify the reporting process for parents, and while a 3 year evaluation of the policy is underway, the industry wants change now.
JOHN CHERRY, GOODSTART: The subsidy, the way it’s been designed, particularly the Centrelink processes, have not delivered on the objective of being simpler than the system it replaced.
HORN: Lucy Ford has spent hours trying to sort out what happened with her payments, and after the story appeared on the ABC she says she was contacted by Centrelink. The debt no longer exists and she’ll be refunded $600.