committee recommends the Online Compliance Intervention (OCI) program should be
put on hold until all procedural fairness flaws are addressed, and the other
recommendations of this report are implemented. If these issues are addressed,
the OCI should only be continued in its new form after the new One Touch
Payroll system is implemented in 2018.
committee strongly recommends that the rollout of a redesigned system must
include a robust risk assessment process, which includes consultation with
relevant expert stakeholders.
committee recommends that all people who have had a debt amount determined
through the use of income averaging should have their debt amounts re-assessed
immediately by a team of departmental officers with specialist knowledge of the
Online Compliance Intervention program, using accurate income data sourced from
employers. This re-assessment must include the full range of unpaid, partially
paid and fully paid debts incurred by current income payment recipients and
those debts outsourced to debt collection agencies.
committee recommends all data-matching guidelines and protocols be adhered to,
including the Data-matching Program (Assistance and Tax) Act 1990, regardless
of whether the department is using tax file numbers. This will require the
department to halt the Online Compliance Intervention process while steps are
taken to ensure compliance with all mandatory and voluntary provisions.
Adherence to these provisions should be verifiable by the public in order to
maintain trust in the social security system.
does not publicly release sensitive information it holds about individuals, for
committee recommends the department resume full responsibility for calculating
verifiable debts (including manual checking) relating to income support
overpayments, which are based on actual fortnightly earnings and not an assumed
committee recommends the department review all debt cases where the 10 per cent
recovery fee was automatically imposed, and in line with procedural fairness,
allow each person a fully-informed opportunity to apply to have the debt
recovery fee waived.
committee recommends personal or technical barriers to communication which
impacted an individual's ability to undertake income reporting, should be
included in the reasonable excuse framework for waiving the debt recovery fee.
committee recommends Accessible Information, in particular Easy English
versions, be made available in all debt recovery programs, including online
portals. The committee strongly recommends this should be a whole-of-department
change, to ensure that producing Accessible Information versions of all
Centrelink communications material become standard operating procedure.
committee recommends the department ensure that in the re-design of the Online
Compliance Intervention system, if it continues, the new system has the
necessary protocols to protect vulnerable cohorts, including people
experiencing mental health issues. The committee strongly recommends this
should be a whole-of-department change, including reconvening the Consumer
Consultative Group, the Service Delivery Advisory Group and the Mental Health
Advisory Working Party.
committee recommends that the department provide all Online Compliance
Intervention participants with the debt calculation data required to be assured
any debts are correct.
committee recommends the Department of Human Services be adequately resourced
to implement all recommendations of this report, and to improve the level of
service provided to Centrelink recipients. In particular, the committee
recommends increased investment in communication channels and staff, to ensure
calls are answered in a more timely manner. The committee strongly recommends
this as a whole-of-department change.
committee recommends that clear and comprehensive advice on the internal and
external reassessment, review rights and processes are made available to all
Online Compliance Intervention-impacted individuals.
committee recommends that clear and comprehensive advice on the ability to seek
an extension of time to provide income documentation is made available to all
Online Compliance Intervention-impacted individuals.
committee recommends that community legal service funding be reviewed in the
next budget, to ensure community legal services are able to meet the community
need for legal advice relating to Online Compliance Intervention matters.
committee recommends the operating budgets for the Administrative Appeals
Tribunal be reviewed to plan for an increased workload on Online Compliance
Intervention-related matters, to ensure these cases are progressed within
committee strongly recommends that an outstanding debt should not exclude a
person from advance payments needed for essential goods and services.
committee recommends the department voluntarily undertake to be bound by all
debt collection and consumer law legislation and guidelines, and ensure regular
external scrutiny to ensure compliance. This should explicitly include the
actions of external contractors working on behalf of the department.
committee recommends the department ensures an independent review of internal
and external debt collection practices is undertaken, to ensure all procedures
are adhering to industry standards, such as the suspension of debt collection
where debt liability is disputed, and the provision of accurate and relevant
information to debtors.
committee recommends the department consider adoption of the principles of the
Victorian Judgement Debt Recovery Act which precludes debt collection to be
made from Centrelink payments that are recognised minimum payments required for
food, shelter and other life essentials.
committee further recommends the department develop guidelines on appropriate
levels of debt repayment to income ratios, to ensure that debt repayment
amounts do not impact any individual's ability to purchase life essentials.
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