Marco - Disability Discrimination
Marco*, who has a cognitive impairment, had been employed for many years by a large national chain through an Assisted Employment Program. He had moved into a unit close to his workplace some years before so that he was able to live independently and walk to and from work. Marco was unable to use public transport unaided and taking taxis was unaffordable.
As the result of a directive from head office, Marco’s work hours were changed so that he had to commence much earlier than previously. This directive, it was advised, was relevant to the type of duties he performed.
Marco and his parents were concerned that his safety was at risk as he would now have to walk to work in the dark. Significantly, being able to get himself to and from work independently was of great importance for Marco.
Marco requested a later start time, but his manager refused to grant this. Marco’s Assisted Employment Program representative was unwilling to become involved in this issue in case it affected other clients employed by the same company.
BRQ contacted the company’s state human resources manager to explain Marco’s case. The HR manager accepted BRQ’s argument that an adjustment to Marco’s start time was the appropriate (and lawful) course and she advised Marco’s manager accordingly. The change was effected and Marco and his family were greatly relieved that the issue was quickly resolved and Marco could remain in his job and living independently.
Catherine - Compensation Preclusion Period waived
Catherine approached Basic Rights Queensland as she was unable to qualify for income support due to a “preclusion period” imposed as a result of a substantial lump sum compensation payout resulting from a motor vehicle accident in 2008. Catherine was precluded from receiving a Centrelink payment until 2025 meaning she would not be payable for another 10 years. When she contacted BRQ in late 2015 she had no money in the bank, no assets and was relying on charity and limited family support to survive.
As a result of the motor vehicle accident Catherine sustained multiple physical injuries which left her in chronic pain with limited endurance and permanent facial injuries. Furthermore, she sustained a moderate brain injury which affected her emotions and ability to plan and make considered decisions.
Not long after the accident Catherine’s relationship with her partner of 10 years broke down and she was left to raise her 2 sons from an earlier relationship alone. Catherine purchased a house and business with the compensation funds hoping to sustain herself and her family however the impact of the 2011 floods and other factors meant she was eventually forced to sell the house and business at a significant loss. In the meantime Catherine had difficulty managing her money and was taken advantage of financially by her associates. As a result of her significant experience of grief and loss across a variety of domains including financial, relationship, employment and health Catherine developed severe depression which worsened over time and was severe when she contacted Basic Rights.
BRQ obtained information from her doctor, mental health professionals and accessed relevant information relating to her compensation payout and argued on appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (Level One) that Catherine’s preclusion period should be waived on the basis of “special circumstances”. Catherine is now receiving a payment and has regained a semblance of self-esteem due to the increased independence that this provides.
Jenny – Newstart Backpay
Jenny had been given an 8 week Unemployment Non-Payment Period after leaving her employment voluntarily. Jenny was working when her beloved pet fell ill with a rare illness. She accessed her sick leave, annual leave and unpaid leave from her employment but still needed to care for her pet for an unknown period of time – without any income. Jenny lived alone and considered her animals to be her family – for her, this was akin to caring for a sick child. Feeling she had no other reasonable choice, Jenny left her employment.
Centrelink assessed Jenny as having left her work voluntarily without a good reason. Basic Rights Queensland advised Jenny to appeal the decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Social Security & Child Support Division and to argue that it was reasonable in all the circumstances to leave her employment. The Administrative Appeals Tribunal accepted that Jenny’s personal circumstances meant that it was reasonable for her to leave her employment to care for a dependent with a serious illness. As she was successful, Jenny was given back pay for the Non-Payment Period.
Jenny was now able to pay off debts that had accumulated during the non-payment period and, importantly, to maintain her housing. Jenny felt grateful that the Tribunal had recognised her unique situation and strong bond with her animal family which had led to her decision to leave work when she did.
Charlie – Disability Support Pension granted
Born with spina bifida, Charlie suffered from faecal and urinary incontinence. Having been a recipient of the disability support pension, Charlie decided he wanted to enter the workforce on a full time basis. He found a job and surrendered his pension. Charlie drove trucks for nearly 6 years. Whilst driving, he had regular “accidents” which left him with no option but to go home and shower. At work, he avoided contact with his co-workers and never ate in the lunch room for fear they would detect the odour that was normally present. Managing his disability in these circumstances eventually became too much and Charlie was forced to resign.
Unsuccessful with a new claim for the disability support pension, Charlie had to exist on Newstart Allowance and his living standards fell dramatically. Unable to afford the latex liner bags for his catheter, Charlie cleaned and reused the liners, contrary to medical advice that they should be replaced, never reused. This made Charlie prone to serious bladder and kidney infections, which he contracted on an almost monthly, basis.
On review to the former Social Security Appeals Tribunal, BRQ succeeded in obtaining the disability support pension and more than 12 months of arrears for Charlie. Now Charlie has some financial security, he is able to afford his medical requirements and he has recovered some dignity.
Tom – Disability Support Pension granted
After having been in receipt of disability support pension (DSP) for a number of years, Tom was dismayed to find his payment was cancelled. Tom has an acquired brain injury and he suffers from mental illness.
BRQ established that the cancellation was due to Tom being reassessed under the new criteria which were introduced in 2015. Tom’s conditions were now not considered to be “fully diagnosed treated and stabilised”, so he was awarded 0 “impairment points”.
BRQ appealed on Tom’s behalf to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Social Services and Child Support Division (AAT1), ensured he was granted “payment pending review”, so he had sufficient income to live on during the appeal process, and obtained his Centrelink file.
It was clear from the file that Tom had been treated for his medical conditions over a number of years and all his treatment options had been exhausted. We managed to have Tom’s medical matters examined by a relevant medical professional to confirm that his conditions were “fully diagnosed treated and stabilised”, which meant he could be awarded points under the Impairment Tables. We wrote submissions on Tom’s behalf and appeared before the AAT(1).
The Tribunal found that Tom has a “severe” impairment and awarded him 30 impairment points. Tom’s DSP was reinstated.
Sue – Debt reduced
Many years ago, our elderly client, ‘Sue’, took a severely disabled child into her home and then continued to care for her for decades. Sue received some financial support from a state government-funded agency to cover the child’s care needs. Having not questioned the amount she was given, Sue was pleased to receive a payment of $100,000 arrears owed to her. When Centrelink heard about this arrears payment, they raised a debt of $60,000.
BRQ’s caseworker demonstrated that Centrelink had calculated the debt incorrectly and also argued there were “special circumstances” relating to the debt, enabling part of it to be waived.
We were successful in having the debt reduced to a much more manageable $9,000, thereby greatly reducing our elderly client’s financial and emotional stress.
Mandy - Compensation Preclusion Period waived
“Mandy”, who has an acquired brain injury from a car accident, had been manipulated into spending over $500,000 of her accident compensation payment in one year. With no money left, unable to work, and facing a ‘compensation preclusion period’ which means she would not receive any welfare payment before 2019, Mandy and her children were in a desperate situation.
BRQ sourced funding for a neuropsychologist report which showed that, as a result of her injury, Mandy lacked financial decision making capacity, was easily influenced and highly impulsive.
BRQ successfully argued for the preclusion period to be waived, backdated to the new claim we had assisted her to lodge.
So, Mandy had a little arrears with which to pay her rates, phone and electricity, (which was about to be cut off). Most importantly, Mandy, who is permanently unable to work, now has the security and peace of mind of ongoing income.
Sam – Debt waived
“Sam’s” payment had been reduced to just $200/fortnight because he had to repay a Centrelink debt of $50,000. The debt was raised due to numerous unexplained deposits in Sam’s credit card account; deposits which Centrelink considered to be income.
Sam had memory and cognitive problems due to a brain tumour, he could not explain what was in his account and he was distressed and confused by the debt notice.
BRQ immediately got Sam back on full payment as it was a year since the last unexplained deposit and Centrelink had wrongly coded his ongoing income.
After our painstaking review of Sam’s accounts, we were able to show that 90% of the deposits originated from Centrelink payments to which Sam was actually entitled. The other deposits were from Sam’s relatives who had been using his credit card so he could accrue the points, then repaying him later.
The Tribunal found the debt did not exist, thereby removing a great source of financial and mental stress for someone who was not able to cope with either the debt or the stress.
Bill – Disability Support Pension granted
Bill is a farmer who suffers from several physical impairments and chronic pain. His medical conditions were getting worse, aggravated by the farm work. Bill had kept working long after his doctor told him he had to stop. Bill managed by taking high doses of pain killers and doing small amounts of work, interspersed with periods of lying down to let the pain subside. Bill’s efforts to continue working have irreparably damaged his health long-term.
When Bill did eventually claim the Disability Support Pension (DSP), his claim was rejected. With further reports from Bill’s doctor, BRQ demonstrated that Bill’s impairments were considerably worse than Centrelink had originally assessed, sufficient for him to be granted DSP immediately. Now Bill is no longer pressured to continue working whilst hastening the deterioration of his conditions.
Ivan – Newly Arrived Resident Waiting Period overturned and Special Benefit granted
Ivan was referred from a homeless service which could not assist Ivan and his family to secure accommodation as, at their extremely low level of income, rent was not sustainable. Ivan needed income support to supplement what he was able to earn through paid work. Ivan’s wife and seriously ill baby were both in hospital, where the baby’s status had recently been changed to palliative. The hospital would not release Ivan’s baby to go home for palliative care as there was no appropriate home to go to: they were renting one small room in a crowded share-house.
Ivan had lodged a claim for Newstart Allowance which was likely to be refused because he was not officially unemployed – he was working 8 hours a week. BRQ supported Ivan to make Carer Payment and Carer Allowance claims, requesting priority processing.
BRQ suggested that Ivan’s wife make a claim for Special Benefit and advocated to Centrelink on her behalf on the basis that the change in the baby’s health status to palliative should be regarded as a “substantial change in circumstances” beyond the mother’s control subsequent to her arrival in Australia, allowing for waiver of the Newly Arrived Residents Waiting Period. Special Benefit was granted at the maximum basic rate, subject to income testing in respect of Ivan’s employment income only. The family could now be assisted by the homeless service to find more suitable accommodation where both Ivan and his wife could care for their child.
Michael – Debt waived
In defiance of serious congenital disabilities, Michael worked as a taxi driver. Michael was born with legs ending just below the knees, one arm ending just below his elbow, the other ending in one finger and one pincer-like thumb.
After thirty years’ work, Michael’s arthritis became too painful to continue; he was granted Disability Support Pension and became his father’s carer.
Michael had sailed with his father as a child, and after his dad died, Michael decided to pursue his lifelong dream of sailing up the Queensland coast. He sold his home, informed Centrelink of his plan and set off for USA, where boats were cheaper, expecting to return in a few months.
Transporting his yacht back home proved problematic and Michael spent two years living on the boat in Panama, trying to arrange things.
When Michael’s sister told him he’d received a letter about transferring to Age Pension, he contacted Centrelink, whereupon his payment was cancelled. Michael returned to have his payment restored, but a debt of $28,000 was raised as Michael had been in Panama, with which there is no ‘international arrangement’. Michael was unaware of this rule. Since returning, Michael had to sell his boat at a substantial loss, leaving him with little cash remaining.
BRQ successfully argued at the SSAT for waiver of $26,000 still outstanding on the basis of special circumstance that Michael did not intend to deceive Centrelink and would have made sure he complied with DSP rules, if had known them, as he couldn't afford not to.
Paul – Disability Support Pension backpay
Paul suffered a brain injury in an accident and, as is quite common with brain injuries, he lacked insight into the effect his injury had on his brain function. For several years he attempted jobs but never lasted more than a month or two in any one position. He then spent all of his savings trying to set up a small business which he was unable manage.
It wasn’t until four years after his accident that Paul finally saw a Doctor who helped him to understand that his brain injury was, and would likely continue, to stop him from holding down a job. This doctor helped him apply for Disability Support Pension (DSP) which he was granted.
Paul came to BRQ after appealing for back pay to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. With the help of a specialist, our solicitor argued that due to his brain injury Paul had not understood that he should have applied for DSP much earlier.
BRQ was able to successfully convince the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to award Paul back pay (the difference between Disability Pension and Newstart Allowance, worth about $250 per fortnight) for 2.5 year period prior to his DSP application.
Gracie – Payment Exclusion Period waived
Gracie had been on Youth Allowance (Jobseeker) for a while when she was accepted into a university course interstate. Not having a job in her hometown, Gracie decided to move to Queensland before starting her course to settle in and find work. Unfortunately the area Gracie had moved to for university had a higher rate of unemployment than where she was living previously, so Centrelink implemented a 26 week payment exclusion period. Gracie was struggling to manage.
By the time Gracie contacted us; she had received a negative review decision from the Authorised Review Officer (ARO) and had lodged with the Social Security Appeals Tribunal.
We contacted the ARO and asked them to reconsider their decision against the additional evidence we provided: evidence of Gracie’s existing qualifications, evidence there were more vacancies requiring these qualifications in the area she had moved to than where she was living before, plus evidence of a job interview and a job offer.
The ARO agreed the decision should be changed and Gracie should not be subject to a 26 week payment exclusion period. Gracie now had the certainty that she could afford her living expenses, enabling her to start paid employment and prepare for her university studies.
Our intervention also avoided the necessity of proceeding to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal.
Jane – Compensation Preclusion Period waived
Jane sustained a work injury resulting in severe, chronic pain, which still had not resolved five years later. The pain exacerbated her depression, a condition she suffered from due to previous trauma.
Jane received a compensation payout but the funds were quickly used up in legal fees and in the costs associated with supporting family members who moved in to care for her and her young son after the accident.
Jane was eligible for a Centrelink payment, but this was not payable as she still had a year to go in her “compensation preclusion period”. When she came to the Centre, Jane had no money left and was relying on charity and family members who were also in financial hardship.
We were successful in arguing for a waiver of the remaining compensation preclusion period on the basis of special circumstances which included Jane’s poor mental health and the impact her circumstances were having on family members. Now Jane can focus on recovery and on caring for her son.
Jack – Special Benefit granted
Jack came to BRQ as he was subject to an income maintenance period after being made redundant from his job. He had been told by his Union that he needed to make his redundancy payout last three months, but when he came to apply for Newstart Allowance, Centrelink informed him he had an income maintenance period of a further seven months.
His local MP and a number of charities were so concerned by his risk of suicide that they assisted Jack to pay his rent and buy food for the next few months after he was refused access to his Super. He approached BRQ after a referral from a Centrelink Social Worker.
Jack’s BRQ solicitor advised him to apply for Special Benefit to which income maintenance periods do not apply. When this was rejected, the Centre represented Jack in the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and argued that Special Benefit is a broad general discretion and the Tribunal had to consider all factors. BRQ argued that the incorrect advice from the Union and his real risk of self-harm or suicide due to the stress of having no money for several months made the payment appropriate despite the expenditure of the redundancy funds on relocating to a cheaper area.
Special Benefit was granted and backdated to the date Jack had applied for Newstart Allowance. He was then able to afford to travel to Hervey Bay to see a psychologist and start looking for accommodation closer to work opportunities.
Catherine – Disability Support Pension granted
Catherine was referred to our social work service due to her high levels of emotional distress and suicidal ideation. Catherine owed $1,000 rent and it was evident that she was in poor mental and physical health. She had been in a contact two months earlier but had not responded to follow up calls or a letter encouraging her to claim Newstart Allowance. She finally called for assistance as she was concerned about eviction. Having no income, Catherine had been living off her savings.
Catherine disclosed to our social worker that she had not lodged a claim because she was ashamed about having been “dobbed in” for something some months previously and thought this was why her payment had been cut off. With her permission, we liaised with Centrelink and discovered that her payment had been stopped because she failed to lodge a fortnightly form; BRQ assured her that she was still entitled to a payment and encouraged her to lodge a fresh claim for Newstart Allowance as well as for the Disability Support Pension (DSP). The social worker also counselled her about the grief and loss that she was experiencing as a result of her loss of identity; Catherine had previously been a confident, extroverted and sought-after employee but this status had been lost with an abrupt change to her physical and mental health following an operation.
Catherine was linked in with a housing service that assisted her with her rental arrears. Our social worker monitored the progress of her Newstart Allowance and Disability Support Pension claims to ensure that there were no unnecessary delays and provided regular supportive counselling to Catherine who gradually started to show signs of gaining more control over her circumstances. Catherine was ultimately granted DSP and has started making plans for the future. This story is an example of BRQ’s holistic services: Catherine’s presentation at BRQ with a Centrelink issue proved to be a platform for her to receive crisis counselling and ongoing emotional support as well as referral for assistance with her housing.
Maria – Disability Discrimination
As a consequence of being beaten mercilessly as a child by both her parents, Maria lost 80% of her eyesight. Maria also missed a lot of school in order to hide the bruises, so she could barely read or write. Never-the-less she triumphed over adversity and got her dream job, working as a kitchen hand in a busy river side restaurant.
Maria was well liked and very popular and worked happily at the restaurant for 6 years without incident, until the 2011 floods sent the restaurant bankrupt. For Maria, losing her job was the worst thing that could happen to her. Her former boss helped her find another job at a large industrial kitchen. Maria was bullied and harassed by the kitchen manager, who considered her an easy target because she was partially blind. When Maria threatened to complain, the kitchen manager told her not to cross him as he would have her fired. She stood up for her rights and was fired.
Maria lost her job, her home and her self-esteem and began self-harming to try to cope with the stress. BRQ’s Disability Discrimination Advocate represented Maria at a conciliation conference at the Anti-Discrimination Commission Qld, and assisted her to reach an acceptable agreement. While Maria was unable to be reinstated the respondent company paid her a significant settlement sum by way of compensation. With self-confidence returning after being supported to stand up for her rights, Maria is now able to start seeking alternative employment.
Rachel – Family Tax Benefit Debt waived
Rachel came to BRQ with a $6,000 Family Tax Benefit (FTB) debt which was raised after a period when she was twice involuntarily admitted into a mental health ward and in between was given part-time care of her daughter. Because the Department of Child Safety had obtained Interim Accommodation Orders for her child to be placed with foster carers or her mother, Centrelink took the view that the child was not her FTB child and that she had failed to inform Centrelink of this, and therefore they raised a debt.
BRQ was able to obtain evidence from Rachel’s Psychiatrist that she lacked the capacity to advise Centrelink of the change in her circumstances throughout that period, even when she was seen as well enough to leave hospital and return to partial care of her daughter. The fact that the debt arose through no fault of hers and that she did provide substantial care for her daughter for large parts of the debt period were seen as special circumstances and the outstanding debt was waived.
This was of significant assistance as Rachel had considerable credit card debts from having committed to higher rent and mobile plans whilst she was working and then having bills accumulate whilst she was hospitalised. Rachel also faced significant ongoing gap costs in order to regularly see a Psychiatrist, as there is insufficient mental health funding for the level of treatment she needed.
Reza – Newstart Special Discretion granted for Permanent Resident
Reza, a full time student, was referred to BRQ by a homelessness intervention service. While Reza, originally from Bangladesh, had been a permanent resident since 2005, her husband, Rasel, was not and was currently on a bridging visa. As a consequence Rasel had no entitlement to a Centrelink payment (not having the specific type of visa required for eligibility for special benefit). Rasel was also prevented from working by the conditions of his visa. Thankfully Reza and Rasel lived in public housing, but with a recent rent increase, Reza had been finding it more and more difficult to support the both of them on the partnered rate of Newstart Allowance and, having accumulated some rental arrears, had been given notice to leave by Department of Housing.
BRQ made contact with Centrelink on Reza’s behalf to request that Centrelink exercise a discretion available to them under s24 of the Act to pay her at the higher, single rate of Newstart on the basis that there were special circumstances in the case preventing her and Rasel from pooling their finances and as a result they were in financial hardship. Centrelink granted this request, increasing Reza’s rate of payment. Further advocacy from the BRQ resulted in Centrelink finding a basis for this rate being paid from an earlier date resulting in Reza receiving additional arrears paid as a lump sum. Reza was now in a position to work with the homelessness intervention service to resolve her housing problems.
James – Preclusion Period waived, Disability Support Pension granted
James became a quadriplegic in a car accident in 1997 and received $5.8 million in compensation in 2001. He was then told he would be precluded from receiving any Centrelink payment until 2096 (when he’d be 133 years old). James requires around the clock care and in the following 10 years he spent $2.1 million on carers.
During that time, one of those carers took financial advantage of him, using his money for personal gain and James also made some bad investments. As a result of this and the high cost of his care, James had been forced to sell his house by 2007 and only had $50,000 and a few inaccessible assets remaining.
Queensland Health helped him get into share accommodation run by a charity with carers shared between the residents. James was so stressed about his future he did not pay for items which would increase his quality of life, including repairs for his wheelchair and car.
In 2011 James reapplied to Centrelink to reduce his preclusion period. When he was knocked back the BRQ became involved.
After working with his accountant and social worker, the Centre was able to obtain sufficient evidence to convince the Social Security Appeals Tribunal that James will need his remaining savings to co-fund essential medical aids that the state government will not fully pay for. James was granted Disability Support Pension.
Our intervention resulted in greater security of James’ affordable and appropriate accommodation and he will be able to ensure he has functioning medical equipment and transport. In the long term, he is less likely to rely on expensive hospitalisation and state government support. Most importantly, James has some financial security and will not have the stress of worrying about his future.
Nadia – Debt repayments decreased
Nadia came to BRQ with a large debt related to her overseas age pension. While we were unable to assist her with the reduction of the debt, our social worker became involved as Nadia was under intense emotional and housing stress. We were able to negotiate smaller debt withholdings from her pension in an effort to stabilise her accommodation. Subsequently our social worker also assisted Nadia to apply for public housing, including providing a letter of support. BRQ also supported her to appeal her payment rate which resulted both in an increase in the rate, back pay, and additionally a reduction in her existing debt. Nadia would have been unable to negotiate this independently due to her lack of success to date in managing her issues with Centrelink and her high levels of emotional stress.
Sadia – Aged Pension restored after overturning asset decision
Sadia first came to BRQ because the rate of her Centrelink payment had been reduced. Sadia’s husband passed away last year and she received approximately $150,000 from his life insurance policy. Subsequently, Sadia lost this money in what is sometimes known as a “Nigerian Scam”. Sadia’s rate of payment had been reduced as Centrelink were treating this loss of money as a loan, therefore treated as a financial asset which was then assessed under the income test.
Sadia had been unable to obtain verification of her circumstances from Queensland Police. BRQ supported Sadia and worked collaboratively with a generalist community legal centre. We were successful in liaising between Queensland Police and Centrelink to verify the client’s circumstances to Centrelink’s satisfaction. Sadia’s rate of payment was restored and she received $3,000 of arrears. This was achieved through early intervention, thereby saving the public resources required to go through the formal tribunal process.
Mark – Disability Support Pension granted
Mark came to BRQ only two weeks before a scheduled Social Security Appeals Tribunal hearing after being rejected for Disability Support Pension. Mark had a condition which made him dependent on at least fortnightly blood transfusions which also required periods of rest before and after due to lethargy. He had increased risks of bleeding and infections so although he might have been well enough to work in the weeks that he wasn’t getting a transfusion, this would put him at increased risk of serious medical complications.
Our caseworker immediately wrote to his GP and Haematologist for more information to support the appeal. The additional information provided by his doctors, and an argument that his condition was likely to prevent him from maintaining any regular employment successfully; resulted in the decision to reject his DSP being overturned. This outcome was achieved within 6 weeks of Mark’s initial contact with the Centre.
Mick – Disability Discrimination conciliation and damages
Mick is a young Indigenous man who suffers from a moderate intellectual impairment. He was working as a casual kitchen hand in regional Qld for a month, when his position was terminated.
Mick’s disability included a slow developmental delay and this affected his short term memory. As a result Mick was unable to remember simple instructions at work and had to keep asking the other staff for assistance. He was abused and bullied in the workplace and called stupid because he could not remember how to do things.
This was Mick’s first job and he was very proud to be working. When he lost his job he was emotionally crushed. He developed severe anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his termination.
Mick tried every community legal centre and law firm near his home town for help. All of them said that his case had no merit because his employers were arguing poor work conduct as the primary reason for his termination.
BRQ became involved when Mick approached our Disability Discrimination service with his complaint. It was clear to us that his former employers must have known that he had a disability as he was on a Disability Support Pension when he applied for the position and had school related special education classes included in his resume.
The matter was settled at conciliation and Mick was awarded a work reference and a sum of money for pain hurt and humiliation. This outcome means that Mick may in time have confidence to try to re-enter the workforce.
Sandy – Centrelink Benefits - Partner’s Death
When Sandy first presented to the BRQ she was very distressed – her partner had died without leaving a will and she was struggling to wind up his affairs. Sandy came to BRQ because Centrelink had told her that she could no longer continue to receive Family Tax Benefit due to the number of her late partner’s outstanding tax returns. The Australian Tax Office indicated to Sandy that she needed to obtain Letters of Administration from the Supreme Court to have authority to deal with the outstanding tax returns. Even if Sandy could get a waiver of the Court filing fee she had no way to afford the advertising necessary to make the application to the Court.
A BRQ worker advocated on Sandy’s behalf and Centrelink agreed that provisions protecting individuals from Family Tax Benefit debts after relationship breakdowns should be exercised in her favour. With the threat of a sizable social security debt gone, Sandy was later able to advocate on her own behalf to the Australian Tax Office to find a way to wind up her late partner’s tax matters without the need to make an application to the Supreme Court.
Frank – Preclusion Period Health Care Card
Frank had a 5 year preclusion period but had difficulties negotiating with Centrelink as a result of his acquired brain injury . He was referred to our social worker who is guiding and supporting him through the appeals process. To date he has successfully challenged Centrelink’s decision not to accept his claim for a health care card - for which he proved eligible.
This model of advocacy where we work with the client so they gain the outcomes will be particularly useful as Frank will need to deal with many other challenges in his life.
Sylvia – Compensation for Detriment caused by Defective Administration Scheme
Sylvia was forced to cease work to care for her elderly mother. She completed an application form for a Carer Payment and Carer Allowance under the supervision of a Centrelink officer. This form was incorrectly filled in to state that the client did pay private rent and provided details of this, however omitted to answer some of the questions regarding this due to a misreading of the form. Neither the Centrelink officer advising her, nor the officer entering the information into the system noticed this error. This led to the client not receiving her entitlement to Rent Assistance for more than 18 months.
The BRQ was able to help her successfully apply for back-pay under the Compensation for Detriment caused by Defective Administration Scheme. This meant that, while there was no longer any legal entitlement to the monies that should have been paid, the client received the same amount to compensate for Centrelink’s error.
Frank – Rent Assistance arrears agreed
As a homeless person Frank was put directly through to the Telephone Advice Service to have his matter sorted as quickly as possible. He explained that he seemed to be receiving $40 less per fortnight in rent assistance than other men staying at the hostel and he believed this was because Centrelink thought that he was paying for “board” which includes meals rather than lodgings alone. Frank was on the disability support pension because he was ‘silly in the head, but he wasn’t stupid!’. Frank had approached Centrelink about the issue previously but nothing had changed.
BRQ was the fifth service he had tried to access assistance from in relation to this issue. With appropriate authority, a BRQ advocate made contact with Centrelink to advocate on his behalf. Within hours Centrelink staff had located the paperwork originally submitted by Frank, noted that his claim for rent assistance had been incorrectly coded, rectified the issue and arranged for arrears to be paid to Frank within two working days. Frank said this payment would assist him with the costs of moving into more stable independent accommodation.