Our legal advice and assistance to client’s challenging Centrelink decisions at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal has resulted in the reversal of two detrimental decisions recently. Both successful appeals have made a very meaningful impact on the lives of our clients who would otherwise be under severe financial strain and subsequent stress. Read about Jane* and Craig’s* stories here…
Jane and Peter had lived as a separated couple under the same roof for many years. Jane received a letter from Centrelink notifying her that they were cancelling her payments. The payments Jane received were her only source of income and she had no means to gain employment.
The benefits Jane received from Centrelink required her to be widowed, divorced or separated. Centrelink concluded that since Jane and her ex-husband had the same address that they were members of a couple. Jane’s benefits were cut off as a result of this decision.
Jane and Peter did not participate in activities that would identify them as still being married. For example, they lived at opposite ends of the house they jointly owned and used their own bedrooms, bathrooms and living spaces. Jane and Peter split the costs associated with running the household, including utilities and repairs, and did not converse unless it was in regards to a household matter.
Regardless of all of these circumstances, Jane received a letter from a Centrelink Authorised Review Officer (ARO) who had reviewed the initial decision made by Centrelink. Unfortunately, the review was not in Jane’s favour.
Jane visited BCLS to assist her in her Centrelink matter. With the help of BCLS lawyers, Jane’s case was heard by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) who considered each of the circumstances surrounding Jane and Peter’s living situation. Jane’s appeal was successful and Centrelink decided that Jane was living separately and apart from Peter. Jane was back paid over $10,000.00 in benefits!
Jane’s lawyer identified that she was also experiencing emotional abuse by a family member and was able to refer her to the BCLS Social Work Service to receive support. Jane is thankful to all BCLS staff for not only assisting her with her legal matters, but for helping her make continued improvements in her personal life.
Craig had been studying full time at a tertiary institution when he decided to change courses. Craig notified Centrelink of his change in course as he knew that he was required to tell them of any change in circumstances. Centrelink incorrectly advised him that he was receiving the right benefit of Youth Allowance. Craig should have been receiving a benefit for Newstart Allowance, but he was not aware of this at the time.
Craig continued to receive Youth Allowance on the guidance of Centrelink staff, so when he received a letter asking him to pay back over $45,000 he was shocked. Centrelink had advised Craig that he should not have been receiving the Youth Allowance benefit as he had changed his course and no longer met the requirements to receive it. Craig decided to visit BCLS to see if somebody could help him with his Centrelink matter.
BCLS legal staff assisted Craig in appealing the initial decision made regarding the debt. However, when the decision arrived from the Centrelink Authorised Review Officer (ARO), he was extremely upset to find that they had only waived $17,000 of the debt due to an administrative error, but were still requesting he repay them over $28,000.
At this time, Craig was a full time student and did not have the capacity to pay back a debt as large as this. Craig’s full time study load did not permit him to gain part or full time employment and he relied on the Centrelink payments as his main source of income.
BCLS helped Craig to appeal the matter further and Craig attended an Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) hearing. Due to the extensive submissions drafted by BCLS staff, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) decided in Craig’s favour and the remaining $28,000 debt owed by Craig was waived!
*names and identifying information have been changed.