‘Horrified’: Single mum’s robodebt nightmare

 

A SINGLE mother has told of the horror of receiving a substantial robodebt notice - and revealed the stressful toll it has taken on her for more than two years.

The Federal Government said it would pay back $721 million to people who paid Centrelink debts they may never have owed under the controversial scheme.

But Austins Ferry mother Andrea Russell said she had experienced significant stress since receiving a debt notice of $12,500, just before Christmas in 2017.

"I was horrified,'' she said.

"I am a single mum, my husband passed away, and I was just unbelievably worried about what was going to happen.

"I had always worked and always notified Centrelink every fortnight of my earnings.

"I reported exactly what I earned all the time. I was being made to feel I was a thief."

Andrea Russell of Austins Ferry has spent more than two years battling with Centrelink over a robodebt notice. Picture: LUKE BOWDEN
Andrea Russell of Austins Ferry has spent more than two years battling with Centrelink over a robodebt notice. Picture: LUKE BOWDEN

Ms Russell said the debt was halved just days after she contacted Federal Independent MP Andrew Wilkie to make him aware of her situation.

She said she had paid almost $5000 of the debt through a payment plan, but now hoped the money would be returned.

Ms Russell, a mother-of-six, with two children still at home, said the debt had taken a significant toll.

"I just couldn't believe that it was actually happening when they took nothing into consideration about how this would affect families,'' she said.

"I was very concerned. $12,500 was a huge amount and it made no sense to me how it could be halved overnight."

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Federal Independent MP Andrew Wilkie. Picture: ZAK SIMMONDS
Federal Independent MP Andrew Wilkie. Picture: ZAK SIMMONDS

 

Mr Wilkie said the Federal Government owed those affected an apology.

"The Federal Government treated these people like criminals and owes them an apology, their money back and at least interest on that money,'' he said.

"My concern now is the government will stuff up repaying the debts, just like it did recovering them."

Mr Wilkie said he had been in contact with Centrelink to clarify the next steps.

"It was not able to confirm that everyone targeted under the robodebt program will be refunded,'' he said.

"This is of great concern with me, and something I will press the government on in parliament next week."

Originally published as 'Horrified': Single mum's robodebt nightmare


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