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How a single mum almost lost her wages and her house after Centrelink mistakenly over paid her

Cash-strapped single mum was hounded three times a day and told she would lose her home after Centrelink overpaid her in a mistake that was completely THEIR fault

  • Single mum threatened by debt collectors after she was overpaid benefits
  • They said she would lose her wages and her home if she did not pay Centrelink
  • Tribunal found Centrelink were completely at fault after entering wrong date 
  • A loop hole in the rules means she will have to pay while others on welfare don’t

A single mother was hounded by debt collectors who told her she could lose her home unless she paid back Centrelink after they made a mistake with her benefits.

Emma Delahunty, from Alice Springs, was ordered to pay back $3700 after she was overpaid parental leave. 

The public servant applied for paid parental leave in April 2018, two months after the birth of her son, to cover her until her return to work in July 

But she is now being aggressively pursued for repayment after the agency accidentally overpaid her after entering the wrong date.

Emma Delahunty (pictured), from Alice Springs, applied for paid parental leave in April 2018, two months after the birth of her son, to cover her until her return to work in July

‘I have very little spare cash,’ she told The Guardian.

 ‘It’s only rained twice here in Alice Springs. Once was yesterday, but the last time it rained, in May, my toilet blocked up, and it took me two months to be able to afford to pay a plumber to come and fix it.’ 

Last month, the administrative appeals tribunal found the agency was entirely at fault but ruled the debt would remain as it would not cause her ‘severe’ financial suffering. 

While other welfare debts can be reduced or cancelled if Centrelink is to blame, the ‘loophole’ in the rules for parental leave payment means the mother-of-one is being forced to foot the bill.   

‘Even though I did everything right, I’m being forced to pay for Centrelink’s multitude of mistakes,’ she wrote on Facebook.

Initially Ms Delahunty tried to resolve the issue with Centrelink to no avail. 

When the calls began in February 2018 the first-time mother was caring for a 13-month old and had returned to work

When the calls began in February 2018 the first-time mother was caring for a 13-month old and had returned to work 

Although the tribunal said she had followed all procedures accordingly she was aggressively hounded by private debt collectors.

When the calls began in February 2018 the first-time mother was caring for a 13-month old and had returned to work. 

‘Then the phone calls started… They’re fairly aggressive. Three times a day. They are fairly hardline. 

‘You know, they can garnishee your wages. ‘’Your passport can get seized’’ [they said]. ‘You can default on your mortgage and lose your house if you don’t enter a payment plan,’ she told The Guardian. 

While other welfare debts can be reduced or cancelled if Centrelink is to blame, the 'loophole' in the rules for parental leave payment means the mother-of-one was forced to foot the bill she wrote on Facebook (pictured)

While other welfare debts can be reduced or cancelled if Centrelink is to blame, the ‘loophole’ in the rules for parental leave payment means the mother-of-one was forced to foot the bill she wrote on Facebook (pictured)

Ms Delahunty wrote to the social services minister, Anne Ruston, asking her to waive the debt because she couldn’t afford to pay for Centrelink’s mistake on her limited budget.  

Her letter also detailed that she didn’t claim the total claim she was entitled to, and Centrelink had failed to back date her, or reduce her debt by the $1200 she was owed.

A spokesperson for the Department of Human Services said: ‘We apologise for the difficulties Ms Delahunty has experienced.

Ms Delahunty (pictured) wrote to the social services minister, Anne Ruston, asking her to waive the debt because she couldn't afford to pay for Centrelink's mistake on her limited budget

 Ms Delahunty (pictured) wrote to the social services minister, Anne Ruston, asking her to waive the debt because she couldn’t afford to pay for Centrelink’s mistake on her limited budget

‘Where a social welfare debt arises, the department is legally obliged to recover the debt except in very limited circumstances. We have a dedicated team who can work with people to establish flexible repayment options that take into account their individual circumstances.’

Earlier this month a class action was announced against Centrelink’s robo-debt recovery scheme after it was found 20 per cent of debts issued were incorrect.

In August a grieving mother demanded an overhaul of the system after her 22-year-old son, Jason Madgwick,  took his life three months earlier after he was issued a $2000 debt. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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