Centrelink Workers Admit The Shitty Robo-Debt System Is “Unjust & Callous”

Centrelink‘s ungodly automated debt recovery debacle has been nothing short of catastrophic, and a tremendous strain on the lives of people it has unfairly targeted.
But the system has also made victims of the poor frontline staff at Centrelink offices, who not only have to deal with the regular strain that their job entails (go into any Centrelink office at any given time and you’ll spot nightmare conditions within seconds), but now they’ve had to serve as the overloaded mops trying to clear up a mess that their bosses’ bosses’ bosses’ bosses say doesn’t exist.
The already thin resources of the service have been stretched to breaking point as staff attempt to deal with an inflexible system that’s attempting to effectively rort low-income earners of money they never owed because the Coalition Government’s idea of cost cutting is a broke man living on half a sandwich instead of a full one.
Centrelink workers’ union, the Community & Public Sector Union, has had a gutful of the situation, and has today taken the somewhat extraordinary step of penning an open letter to welfare recipients past and present that not only acknowledges the fact that the whole situation is decidedly shitty, but that the Government’s robo-debt system is “unfair, unjust, and callous.”
In an open letter published to the CPSU website, and subsequently passed around social media earlier today, the union called on the Department of Health and Human Services, and specifically minister for human services Alan Tudge, to actually listen to the experienced people Centrelink has at its disposal, and to offer real solutions to what it deems to be a growing problem.

“Dear Customers,

We work for Centrelink because we want to do worthwhile work that contributes to Australia and our communities. But this work is getting harder every day.

As Centrelink employees, we put ourselves at risk by speaking to the media or commenting in public about what is happening at our workplace.

But it’s been a difficult year and there’s some things we need to tell you.

We need to tell you that we see your pain and acknowledge your fear. We know you are angry and we are too. We know that the people of Australia deserve better.

We know that the automated debt notices are unfair, unjust, and callous. We acknowledge that in a great many cases, they are not your debts.

Many of us warned the Department of Human Services that the debt system wouldn’t work. Despite our combined hundreds of years’ experience in welfare systems, the Department is still not listening.

Debt notices are only the beginning – Centrelink is in crisis and the only way to fix it is for the Turnbull Government to make it possible for us to help you. Minister Tudge needs to take responsibility for this crisis and offer the Australian public real solutions.

5,000 jobs have been cut from the Department of Human Services in 5 years. We need to fix that. We need more staff who are permanent and well-trained, and who are genuinely consulted about how things work so they can help you.

We will do our best to be there for you today when you come in or call, and yes, we are sorry for the wait.

Yours sincerely,

Centrelink staff and the Community and Public Sector Union.”

Tudge, Turnbull, and the Government, for their part, still insist the automated debt recovery system is fine and working properly and nothing at all has gone wrong.

Maybe if they keep their fingers in their ears for long enough, the day will come when it won’t be their problem anymore.
Source: CPSU.
Photo: Matt King/Getty.