CENTRELINK likes people to go online if they need to report something, so for Centrelink to direct pensioners to call them on a special number might be called good news. Except it isn’t.
Late last year, CPSA started receiving complaints from pensioners about a letter or text message they received from Centrelink telling them to report their income every fortnight.
From December 2020, new income reporting arrangements apply to all social security payments. These arrangements are designed mainly for employment income, but also apply to income like rent from an investment property, foreign pensions and any other income that is not deemed income.
Previously, pensioners didn’t need to report fortnightly if their non-deemed income was steady. Now they do.
Centrelink being Centrelink, it can’t be polite about it. It demands and threatens pensioners their pension will be stopped if they don’t report on time. Every fortnight. If you forget, your next pension payment doesn’t arrive until you have made your report.
It’s been a shock to pensioners.
One pensioner who contacted CPSA described it thus:
As directed, I called them on the Friday and reported my income. During this conversation I was told I had to continue to report my income fortnightly. I called in again the next Friday by mistake, then missed calling on the next Friday when I should have as I had in mind two weeks from my last call. When I logged into my bank account over the weekend to pay a bill, I noted my pension payment had not been made. My wife also checked her account and confirmed she also had not received her pension.
Reporting can also be done online, but the same threat of withholding pension payments applies.
CPSA received similar reports from pensioners with superannuation pensions. Details had to be reported only once, not fortnightly, but again this requirement was framed as a demand and backed-up by a threat of stopping pension payments.
One pensioner reported that they received a letter two days before Christmas, saying: If you do not give us this information by 6 January 2021, your payment may be stopped.
Wouldn’t you think that Centrelink had learnt some manners after the Robodebt debacle?
They clearly haven’t.