Pause on Childcare and Centrelink debts

The union representing the public sector including Centrelink workers, the CPSU, and not-for-profit parent advocacy organisation The Parenthood, welcome the pause on generating debts in areas with lockdown orders in place. However, both organisations continue to call for a review of how debts are assessed and raised.

Tens of thousands of families across Australia are in lockdown, or are just coming out of lockdowns, and still have restrictions in place. The impact of the announced debt pauses and what it means for many lockdowns affected families is not yet clear, particularly in regard to what happens if they get a debt letter immediately before or immediately after a lockdown.

Last year in the peak of the first and second wave the government paused debt recovery, and as a result many families are receiving debts that were previously paused, as well as any alleged debts that have been incurred over the last financial year. Many families are telling The Parenthood that the debt amounts reflected in letters received by families are often incorrect.

CPSU members and The Parenthood are calling for greater clarity on what the pause on debt raising and recovery means and when these actions will recommence. The organisations also reiterate their call for a review of how debts are assessed and raised.

Quotes attributable to CPSU National President Alistair Waters:

“CPSU Services Australia members are working overtime to help the community. Knowing that the same people they are helping this week will have debts the week after the lockdown is over is heartbreaking.

“Services Australia workers processed more than one million claims since the beginning of July – helping Australians to access more than $1.3 billion in disaster payments. A debt pause helps but what happens in the weeks after a lockdown is over?

“CPSU members are really concerned by the reports that many of the childcare debt figures are incorrect. Following the Robodebt debacle, it is clear that a root and branch review of how debts are calculated and recovered is needed.”

Quotes attributable to The Parenthood Executive Director Georgie Dent:

“Families being hit with unexpected bills saying they owe thousands of dollars because they were paid too much childcare subsidy has caused stress and anxiety to skyrocket during an already difficult time.”

“Many parents of young children have lost jobs, shifts or income, and are under extreme financial pressure from the lockdown. They are just looking at getting through the next week, day by day. To receive unexpected debt notices for thousands of dollars for a service that should be affordable is unfathomable and cruel.”

“The moratorium is welcome relief but a review to guarantee families are not unfairly out of pocket is also needed. It is also time to address the question of why families in Australia have to pay some of the highest out of pocket costs in the world for early childhood education and care.

“Penalising young mums and dads during their most financially difficult times is not sustainable. It is time for universal access to affordable, high quality early learning and childcare.

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