Robo-Debt Targets Youth Allowance and Newstart

Another article in the ongoing #notmydebt saga today, this one increasing the level of fail.

Today we learn, via The Age, that the data matching process is targeting Newstart and Youth Allowance, and specifically not Family Tax Benefit recipients. Department of Human Service spokesperson Hank Jongen:

“This has primarily involved Newstart and Youth Allowance.

“This compliance activity does not apply to non-income support payments like FTB.

This is all about getting back money that shouldn’t have been paid out, right? It’s about balancing the budget, being sensible with money and all that, yeah?


Not The Bulk Of The Money

Let’s take a look at where all the overpayments are, since we just recently dived into the Department of Social Services’ financial reports to find where this magic $4 billion number came from.

Here’s the value of the receivables for “Recovery of personal benefit payments”.

Personal Benefits Receivables (Source: Department of Social Services’ Annual Report for FY 2015-16).

There’s more detail on what this $4 billion figure is made up of in a footnote.

Components of Personal Benefits Receivables (Source: Department of Social Services’ Annual Report for FY 2015-16).

Here it is in a table.

Payment Type 2016
% total 2016 2015
% total 2015
Family Tax Benefit 1,476 36.61% 1,419 35.20%
Parenting Payments 783 19.42% 698 17.31%
Newstart 647 16.05% 485 12.04%
Disability Support Pension 289 7.16% 254 6.31%
Total 3,195 79.24% 2,857 70.86%

And here it is as a chart.

Human Test Subjects

Why target Newstart recipients when Family Tax Benefit and Parenting Payments make up 56% of the total amount owing? Why go after the part that’s only 16%?

This might imply that the purpose of data matching isn’t really about getting money back, but about punishing specific groups of people. I think it’s something far more insidious: This is the test group for the first run of data matching. They’re the human test subjects for this experiment.

Either way, it shows that Centrelink is deliberately targeting a subset of all those who might have been overpaid.

Why this specific group was targeted is a line of questioning others might like to explore.

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One Comment

  1. From my overwhelmed memory ‘our’ Govt conducted an actuarial risk assessment of Centrelink clients with the aim of identifying which cohorts were most likely, via their assessment process, to remain clients the longest.

    The order was something like students, Newstart, carers, DSP and Aged Pension.

    Seems to me that’s the order of attack also.

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