Needy missing out on govt help
HOW do you manage when you have five children and you lose your job, and your partner is out of full-time work?
Urbenville mum-of-five Tracey Latta never wanted to find out, but this week it became her story.
“You take a big breath, give yourself plenty of time and go to Centrelink to try and work things out,” Ms Latta said.
And, she added quietly, you check the street first, hoping no one sees you because even in these tough times there remains a certain stigma to accessing government support.
Even then what her family were eligible for under the various Centrelink schemes was complex, and according to Ms Latta the paperwork and information required was extensive and repetitive.
“You can't just fill in a form and sign it,” Ms Latta said.
“You have to go in person and bring all the information with you.”
The young mother is not the only person daunted by Centrelink.
According to a new report from The Australia Institute, many people were missing out on government assistance due to a lack of awareness and limited understanding of how help can be accessed.
TAI researcher David Baker said many people living on the Southern Downs weremissing out on government assistance they were en-titled to, including parenting payments, carer and bereavement allowances and disability support pensions.
Nationally he estimated 168,000 Australians were eligible for unclaimed en-titlements worth a total of $623 million.
“People, including carers and the recently bereaved, are missing out on assistance worth millions because the government does not actively promote awareness of such entitlements,” Mr Baker said.
“Unlike the Tax Office which will pursue unpaid tax, or Centrelink seeking to recover any money that may have been incorrectly paid because of a change in personal circumstances, there is no obligation on Centrelink to pursue people who are eligible for payments but may not be aware.”
Mr Baker recommended establishing an Entitlements Commission; simplifying benefits and reporting; outsourcing the task of matching people with Centrelink; and applying Centrelink's existing data-matching ability to identify those who are eligible but missing out.
Centrelink's guide to payments states: ‘It is your responsibility to decide if you wish to apply for a payment and to make the application, having regard to your particular circumstances'.