When I had some dealings with them many years ago, they made a very ill-informed ruling against me without talking to me about it either beforehand or afterwards. So it went to an appeals tribunal and was reversed. It seemed clear to me at the time that they behaved entirely arbitrarily, with zero effort to get the full facts. Just talking to me was obviously too hard for them, even though that would have saved a lot of bother. It seems to have got even worse since then, hard though that is to believe
CENTRELINK has been forced to overturn more than a third of its decisions because staff continually get facts and legal advice wrong. Complaints about Centrelink decisions surged 104 per cent in the last two years, making it the most complained about government agency in the country, the Welfare Rights Centre said. Appeals against Centrelink's decisions cost taxpayers more than $33 million a year. More than one-third, 34.5 per cent, of its decisions were overturned on appeal, The Daily Telegraph reports.
More than 6.5 million Australians receive some form of payment from Centrelink each year. In the 12 months to July 2009 there were 103,427 reviews of and complaints about Centrelink decisions. The number of internal Centrelink reviews of its own decisions more than doubled from 40,474 in 2006-07 to 82,774 in 2008-09.
There were 13,429 applications to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal in 2008-09, up 56 per cent in the last two years. In the same period the Ombudsman received 7224 approaches and complaints about Centrelink. The largest number of complaints to the Ombudsman were from people on Newstart Allowance, followed by Disability Support Pension, Family tax Benefit and the age pension.
The Social Security Appeals Tribunal annual report found that 33.1 per cent of Centrelink's decisions it overturned involved an error of fact, and 14.7 per cent involved an error of law.
"As a legal centre we are puzzled by the lack of public outrage or scrutiny of this result, but you have to remember that we are dealing with some of the most vulnerable people in the community," Welfare Rights director Maree O'Halloran said. "It is hard to reconcile the fact that over 30 per cent of decisions are found to be wrong, with Centrelink's own survey results which claim Centrelink has a payment correctness figure of 96 per cent."
The surge in complaints led to a 27 per cent - or $7 million increase - in the Social Security Appeals Tribunal's budget. The tribunal spent $33.2 million in 2008-09 and the average cost of each appeal against a Centrelink decision was $1992.
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