CentreLink payments

CENTRELINK PAYMENTS:

USEFUL CONTACT INFORMATION IS AT THE END OF THIS MATERIAL

What happens when my partner / spouse is in prison?

If you and your spouse/partner were living as a couple in a “marriage like relationship” and either, or both of you were claiming Centrelink payments, you will both now need to inform Centrelink that there has been a change in your circumstances.

You should do this as soon as possible to avoid the risk of getting an overpayment or missing out on benefits you are entitled to.

Your partner’s Centrelink payment should stop while s/he is in prison. Your partner will not be entitled to receive any Centrelink payments while s/he is in prison. The exception to this might be Family Allowance and Maternity Payments where a mother has a baby aged less than 12 months in prison with her.

If your partner continues to receive payments while s/he is in prison an overpayment will occur and this may cause difficulties for the household later.

Your eligibility and payment rates may now have changed. If you were not entitled to any Centrelink payments because your partner’s income was too high, you may now be eligible for a payment.

You may now need to claim different benefits and/or your rates of payment may need to be adjusted.

Usually your payment will increase slightly because you are now living on your own.

Example: Changes to Parenting Payment

If you have been eligible for Parenting Payment at the maximum “partnered” rate , the amount you receive will probably be increased because you are now living on your own.
If your relationship has now broken down and you now consider that you are separated and no longer “a couple”, you may be eligible for the Single rate of Parenting Payment. You may also be eligible for Guardian Allowance.
Lodge any claim for benefits you think you are entitled to as soon as possible. Most benefits are only payable from the day the claim is lodged.
If you think that Centrelink has made a wrong or unfair decision.

If Centrelink rejects your claim for a benefit or makes any other decision you think is unfair or wrong, you have the right to appeal that decision. This is done by:

  • Asking your local Centrelink office to review its decision.
  • Asking for a review by a Centrelink authorised Review Officer.
  • Lodging an appeal to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT) (Social Security Appeals Tribunal)
  • Further appeal may be made through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT)  and Federal Court (on a point of law only). (www.aat.gov.au)

You can use the appeals process even if you are in prison.

See the contact numbers at the end of this information sheet if you want more information about appealing a Centrelink decision.

There may be changes in your circumstances later.

If you start up a new “marriage like” relationship with another partner OR your current partner comes out of prison and is again living with you, remember to tell Centrelink about that change too. Otherwise you could find that you have an overpayment to deal with and run the risk of prosecution for fraud.

Where to get more information

A Financial Counsellor may be able to help you sort out your finances. There may be a number of difficulties in claiming your entitlements and/or meeting your commitments on a single income.

Community based Financial Counsellors will be able to tell you what assistance might be available for you, help you work out your budget and negotiate your debts.

To find out where your nearest financial counsellor is based, contact the Financial Counsellors Resource Project on Ph 9221 9411, fax 9221 9422.

Centrelink payments; What happens when I’ve been put in prison?

A person who is in prison more than 7 days is NOT usually entitled to receive any Centrelink Payments. The exception to this might be Maternity Payment and Family Allowance where a mother has a child under the age of 12 months in prison with her.

BE WARNED: If Centrelink payments continue to be paid to your bank account while you are in prison an overpayment will occur. The longer the payments continue the bigger the over payment will be. It is YOUR responsibility to tell Centrelink about the change in your circumstances, you will be the one dealing with any over payment that might arise. You should NOT rely on the prison telling Centrelink about your changed circumstances.

How do I tell Centrelink that I am prison?

You can phone Centrelink OR
You can write a letter to Centrelink.
Family or friends could pass information to Centrelink on your behalf, but you should check that they have done so.

How would Centrelink know that I am in prison if I don’t tell them?

Centrelink may receive information from some other person or by cross matching information with some other system (eg, the Ministry of Justice). It may be awhile before Centrelink makes the discovery so the overpayment might be quite big by that time.

Other members of my household rely on my income to pay the bills. How will they manage to pay the bills while I am in prison?

Your spouse/partner may also have changes to tell Centrelink about. There may be changes to his/her Centrelink payments and the amount he/she receives. Your partner may find it helpful to see a financial counsellor to help deal with the problem of living on a single income.

What if other people took the money out of my bank account?

You may still have a debt to Centrelink even if you did not use the money yourself. You should seek legal advice if you have had problems with other people interfering with your Centrelink payments or your bank account.

What if I think Centrelink’s decision is wrong?

If you think CentrelinkÕs decision about an overpayment is wrong, or, that the amount is wrong, you have the right to appeal that decision. This is done by: 1) Asking your local Centrelink office to review their decision. 2) Asking for a review by a Centrelink Authorised Review Officer 3) Lodging an appeal to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT). Further appeal may be made through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, (AAT), and Federal Court (on a point of law only). You can use the appeals process even if you are in prison.

See the contact numbers at the end of this information sheet if you want more information about appealing a Centrelink decision.

When will Centrelink start taking money out of my benefits?

Centrelink will probably start “withholding” money from your benefit as soon as you claim when you are released from prison.

Your ability to repay any debt should be taken into account. To try and reduce the deductions from your payment you will need to fill in a special form called “Statement of Financial Circumstances”.

If Centrelink refuses to let you payain affordable amount you can appeal that decision using the Appeals Process described above if necessary.

Are there any options other than repaying the debt?

There may be other options depending on how the debt occurred and your personal circumstances.

If you believe that Centrelink made a mistake you can appeal the decision using the appeals process.
If you are in severe financial hardship Centrelink may “write off” or “waive” all, or part of the debt.
Writing off the debt means that Centrelink will not pursue you for the money now, but will wait for a period of time then look at you situation again.
If Centrelink “waive” all or part of the debt it means that Centrelink will never pursue you for that money now or in the future.
You may need to seek more information and advice about your debt and your circumstances.

Will I be prosecuted if I have an overpayment?

There may be the risk of a prosecution for fraud if you have failed to disclose

information or given false or misleading information. If you receive a summons or Centrelink contacts you with regard to a prosecution you should seek legal advice before saying anything to Centrelink. (See contact numbers attached to this information sheet).

USEFUL CONTACTS

Centrelink

Centrelink appointments 131021
Employment Services 132850
Disability, sickness & carers payments 132717
Youh allowances and Austudy 132490
Youth Allowance & Austudy 132317
ABSTUDY 132317
Family Assistance office 136150
Customer Relations Line (for complaints) 1800 050 004

Address:

Centrelink
Cnr Milligan And Wellington Streets
PERTH WA 6000

Community Legal Centres which can assist with Welfare Rights issues.

Welfare Rights and Advocacy Service (Perth) 9328 1751
Community Legal and Advocacy Service (Fremantle) 9432 9794
SCALES (Rockingham) 9528 6077

Sussex Street Community Law Service (Victoria Park) 9470 1805
Geraldton Community Legal Centre (Geraldton) 9964 3533
Pilbara Community Legal Service (Port Hedland) 9140 1613

Other Legal
Legal Aid (Perth) 9261 6222
Aboriginal Legal Service (ALS) (Perth) 9265 6666
Women’s Legal Service 9221 5122

Legal Aid and ALS both visit the prisons regularly. See your Unit Manager to put your name down for an appointment.

Other contacts

Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office 9220 7541
Social Security Appeals Tribunal 9321 9755
Administrative Appeals Tribunal 9327 7200
Financial Counsellors Resource Project 9221 9411 ( Referral to Financial Counsellors)
People with Disabilities 9386 6477 ( Advocacy, Information, Referral For people with physical, psychiatric disabilities)

WARNING! This information is intended ONLY to provide general information about Centrelink entitlements for prisoners. You may need to seek further information and advice about your situation.