Centrelink have sent out letters emblazoned with the Australian Federal Police logo in an attempt to crack down on welfare fraud, presumably by scaring the bejesus out of welfare recipients with the threat of police intervention.

Centrelink Accused Of Threatening People On Welfare W/ AFP-Branded Letters

The letters sent in July, headed “Taskforce Integrity“, inform recipients that the Department of Human Services are currently “working in [their] community” to “detect people who are deliberately withholding or providing false information to dishonestly receive welfare payments“.

The taskforce was established in 2015. About 38,000 people across four locations have received the notices.

The letter demands that recipients send through a new ‘Statement of Circumstances’ so the department can check that they’re receiving the right payment type and rate.

People found to be “intentionally provid[ing] incorrect information or being dishonest]” could be committing welfare fraud, the letter says, which may result in “debt, loss of payment, referral for prosecution, a criminal record or a prison sentence“.

Cassandra Goldie from the Australian Council of Social Service said people should not be made to feel like they are breaking the law just because they – at this time – need welfare assistance:

It is completely inappropriate for the government to send letters to income support recipients with the Australian Federal Police logo asking if their details are up to date.

These letters are threatening and completely disregard any mental health issue a person may have.

Labor human services spokeswoman Linda Burney said that while the aim of stopping welfare cheats is valid, the Liberal government “is only interested in victimising and harassing vulnerable Australians“.

Last year, only 0.018% of Centrelink recipients were investigated for fraud, according to ACOSS, with just 29 cases resulting in indictable charges.

A spokesperson for the DHS said: “Taskforce Integrity isn’t about prosecuting people who make genuine mistakes, it’s about enforcing the law and deterring those who set out to commit welfare fraud.

Nothing like a big ol’ DFP logo to deter potential law-breakers, amirite?

Centrelink Accused Of Threatening People On Welfare W/ AFP-Branded Letters

Source: The Guardian
Image: Getty Images / Matt King