The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council has called on the Morrison Government to pay back, in full, money erroneously paid to the flawed robodebt scheme.
The scheme raised thousands of debts in error against people on income support payments who had intermittent, additional income during the year.
National Council chief executive Toby oConnor said the Government’s commitment to completely overhauling its automated approach to alleged debts incurred by people on welfare is a welcome, if well overdue, move.
“The Society also notes the Federal Government’s commitment to freezing existing debt recovery pending the review,” he said.
“The idea that a debt could be raised through an automated system without any evidence was a dangerous move. The notion that this process raises the debt and victims have to prove they don’t owe the money is highly questionable. Yet we’ve seen some of the most vulnerable people forced to repay money they did not owe.”
Mr oConnor said the “legal challenge to the scheme” and “unnecessary levels of stress and anxiety could have been avoided” had the Government conducted a review before the robodebt scheme was rolled out.
“We know through our work with people in local communities that this process has added to the trauma for many people living on inadequate allowances,” Mr oConnor said.
“This is another example of the Government’s heavy-handed approach to people on welfare at a time when the number of people looking for work far outnumber available jobs,” Mr oConnor said.
Repay robodebt before Christmas (St Vincent de Paul Society)
ABC News: Elise Scott