Advocates Accuse Agency Of Discriminating Against Cohabitating
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 7, 2005
CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA--An advocacy group has accused Australia's welfare delivery agency of harassing and bullying those who receive disability and welfare benefits while living with other people.
Last week, the president of the National Welfare Rights Network said the agency, Centrelink, routinely forces people with disabilities, their parents and seniors into admitting that they are in "marriage-like relationship" or are "shacking up together" with others in their homes.
Michael Raper said the agency was not looking closely enough at evidence that those living together might be doing so as friends or for security reasons. Raper said one only needs to look at the fact that 45 percent of cases brought before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal are overturned for proof that the agency needs to change its approach.
"The fundamental problem is that Centrelink is not looking closely enough at all the factors that indicate that no relationship exists," Raper said. "It makes judgments based on moral, not legal, grounds and often makes decisions based on flimsy information and prejudicial attitudes."
Hank Jongens, a national manager with Centrelink, told ABC's The World Today radio program that Raper's accusations are unfair.
Jongens said that Centrelink workers have a complex role to play balancing respect of clients' personal situations with the need to keep people from defrauding the system for larger benefits.
"There are a number of factors that we take into account in making these determinations," he said.
"We're not complacent about any of the rules that we are required to apply by law. But let's also not lose sight of the fact that we have to balance this in protecting taxpayers' money."
"Centrelink accused of bullying" (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
"Centrelink rejects bullying accusation" (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)