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Australia Childcare subsidy debt frustrates parents who say data was wiped from Centrelink accounts

23:00  03 november  2019
23:00  03 november  2019 Source:   abc.net.au

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Separated parents . Centrelink online accounts . The easiest way to claim, update your details, give us documents, report your income and get reminders is online. The easiest way to do your business is online. You need a myGov account linked to Centrelink .

Centrelink online account . Sign in to your Centrelink online account using your myGov username and password. We provide payments to people who provide daily care for someone with severe disability, a medical condition, or who is frail aged.

a small child sitting on a table: Mother of two Lucy Ford was told she had a Centrelink debt. (ABC News: Allyson Horn)© Provided by Australian Broadcasting Corporation Mother of two Lucy Ford was told she had a Centrelink debt. (ABC News: Allyson Horn)

When Lucy Ford got a letter from Centrelink telling her she'd been overpaid for her childcare subsidy, she couldn't believe it.

She went back to check her working and childcare hours logged with Centrelink, searching for the overpayment.

But the information she'd entered throughout the year had disappeared.

"I was a little bit shocked at the debt because we had overestimated our income by $12,000 and I'd updated our activity hours," she said.

"So I thought I should check what was on my record and found that all my activity hours had been deleted.

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There are certain debts , however, that Social Security can be garnished to pay for. Those debts include federal taxes, federal student loans, child support and alimony, victim restitution, and other federal debts . The rules for child support and alimony vary depending on the law in your state.

Families. Separated parents . Close. Child Care Subsidy . Who can get it. We have information in different languages about Child Care Subsidy . Call our Multilingual Phone Service to speak with us in your language about your Centrelink payments and services.

"There was just none on there for the last financial year."

Under the scheme, parents must report to Centrelink every time their income or work hours change.

Those figures are then balanced at the end of the financial year against a tax return, to determine if the family has received the correct subsidy payment.

The Fords are one of more than 90,000 families who've been stung with a debt after their accounts were balanced from the first-financial year of the Childcare Subsidy.

The Education Department refused to say how many people had reported that their data had been wiped.

The Fords are one of more than 90,000 families who've been stung with a debt.© ABC News: Allyson Horn The Fords are one of more than 90,000 families who've been stung with a debt.

However, the ABC understands the Department has been made aware of the glitch multiple times.

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c. Ask Centrelink to waive your debt Centrelink will only waive the debt in limited circumstances, which are if: you didn’t contribute knowingly to the overpayment (usually an administrative error); and. there are special circumstances (such as severe financial hardship, poor health or high medical costs).

One man, who asked to remain anonymous, said he fought for months to force Centrelink to concede it had issued him a ,000 debt in error. The Department of Human Services used the inquiry to highlight the changes it had made to the system, which it said had largely resolved the problems.

'It was a system glitch'

"I am appealing the debt but it's background stress knowing that I'm going to have to call and stay on the phone for hours and that it's not going to be a straightforward process sorting it out," Ms Ford said.

"If we hadn't overestimated our income we would have owed thousands of dollars, and that's a huge blow for any family."

Shadow Minister for Early Education Amanda Rishworth said she had been contacted by parents with concerns on how the debts had been calculated.

"And on ringing up Centrelink they've found that it was a system glitch that wiped their data and in fact they've didn't even owe a debt," she said.

"I'm worried for all those families who haven't had the time and energy to chase it, and have received this letter and thought, 'well Centrelink must be right', and they've paid that debt."

Call centres inundated with request for help

The Federal Government has launched a three-year review of Child Care Subsidy policy.© ABC News The Federal Government has launched a three-year review of Child Care Subsidy policy.

The ABC's found the cost is the biggest problem facing parents when it comes to sourcing childcare.

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Centrelink is choosing to use less-accurate data in a effort to drum up money. Edit: After posting this i am blown away by the amount of people who claiming the same thing happened. We need to make noise about this, i am not just a anomaly in a government audit.

Childcare Subsidy is a payment that helps families with the cost of pre-school childcare . Important information. All payments are automatically stopped when the programme you use If you're a Youth Service client, you need to talk to your Youth Service provider. Apply for Childcare Subsidy only.

Seventy-five per cent of parents with young children rated cost as a problem for them personally.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said most families had received a top up payment after the balancing process was completed.

"This is the first balancing period for the new Child Care Subsidy payment, which replaced two separate payments that operated differently and had different requirements," they said.

"Because of this, the Department of Human Services, which is responsible for the reconciliation process, has been approaching the balancing process with care to manage it with as little impact as possible on families.

"The latest balancing data as at 4 October, shows that more than 574,000 families have had their balancing completed.

"Of the outcomes delivered to families, 87 per cent resulted in top up payments or required no action."

But the Department wouldn't answer questions on system problems.

John Cherry from Australia's largest childcare provider, Goodstart Early Learning, said their call centres had been inundated with requests for help from parents.

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⦁ Child Care Benefit can help with the cost of approved and registered childcare . Read more about the new Child Care Subsidy and Additional Child Care Subsidy . Received a debt letter? A new automated system is matching Centrelink with the Australian Tax Office and looking for any anomalies.

“In wiping her (Ms Masterton's) debt , Centrelink is admitting that they got it wrong and is essentially trying to avoid scrutiny as a result," she said . Last month, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald revealed Centrelink had threatened to charge daily compounding interest, garnishee wages or seize

"Overall our families are better off with the changes to the Child Care Subsidy, but the subsidy, the way it's been designed, particularly the Centrelink processes, have not met the objective of being simpler than the system it replaced," he said.

"And the complexity, the multiple paying points in terms of getting approval, that does drive a lot of families up the wall."

The Federal Government has launched a three-year review of Child Care Subsidy policy.

Parents rated cost as the biggest barrier to sourcing childcare in the Australia Talks National Survey.

The ABC asked 54,000 Australians about their lives and what keeps them up at night — use our interactive tool to see the results and how their answers compare with yours.

Then, tune in at 8.30pm on November 18, as the ABC hosts a live TV event with some of Australia's best-loved celebrities exploring the key findings of the Australia Talks National Survey.

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