Centrelink cruelly CANCELS the pension of elderly man with dementia because his son couldn’t find his dad’s superannuation details
- An elderly man with dementia had his pension cancelled despite being eligible
- Administrative Appeals Tribunal heard his son became responsible for finances
- He couldn’t easily find old superannuation details, leading to cancellation
- The AAT ruled Centrelink could have easily found out the information itself
Centrelink cancelled the pension payments of an elderly man with advanced dementia because his son couldn’t find his dad’s old superannuation details.
David Fry, 80, was found driving on the wrong side of the road and moved to an aged care home with his son John responsible for handling his affairs.
The octogenarian was paid an aged care pension since 2006, which his son was also in charge of managing.
That was until Centrelink cancelled Mr Fry’s pension in 2018 because John failed to provide updated financial details for one of his father’s superannuation accounts.
The octogenarian was paid an aged care pension since 2006, which his son was also in charge of managing (stock image)
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal labelled the decision labelled ‘absurd and wrong’ on Monday, after Mr Fry’s son appealed.
The tribunal heard John was unfamiliar with Centrelink’s processes and his father’s financial accounts and found it difficult to track down the information.
Centrelink at first suspended the payment in May 2018 then reinstated it when John called them to explain.
But soon after the pension was suspended again, then cancelled entirely in December 2018.
John and David were advised by mail that the payments were cancelled because ‘we did not receive a reply to the income stream review letter we sent you’.
That letter was sent to only the older Mr Fry at his nursing home where he was being cared for with dementia, and his son was not aware for some time.
‘[Mr Fry] did not have the mental capacity to be aware of, let alone respond to, the requests,’ the tribunal ruled.
The tribunal also noted the younger Mr Fry became ‘guardian of his father’s affairs against his father’s will’ with his father refusing to disclose financial details.
In their ruling against Centrelink, the tribunal found the agency can cancel or suspend payments when a notice is not complied with under social security law – but also have powers to obtain information directly from a financial institution.
This power was not used, instead opting to cancel the payments.
‘(It’s) difficult to contemplate a person who might be more vulnerable than a hospitalised septuagenarian suffering from dementia,’ tribunal member Roger Maguire said.
Centrelink was ordered to backpay payments to an elderly man with dementia after cancelling his pension over red-tape (file image)
Centrelink eventually reinstated the payments after finding the superannuation details did not affect his eligibility.
However, the agency argued it should not have to backpay missing payments between December 2018 and January 2020 because an appeal was not lodged within 13 weeks.
But the tribunal disagreed and found the younger Mr Fry called three times in October but call centre staff did not log the reason for the call.
‘[It’s] fairly obviously he wasn’t phoning up to try and organise a golf game,’ Mr Maguire said.
La Trobe University senior law lecturer Darren O’Donovan said the case displayed Centrelink’s culture of ‘reverse onus’ and that the agency ‘complianced’ the man despite him being entitled to the pension.
Centrelink will have to backpay Mr Fry for the missed payments.