This study explored the experiences of people who found themselves in debt to Centrelink. Their stories were analysed and their community legal centre files reviewed. The research revealed a pattern of overpayments, poor communication by Centrelink and a lack of assistance to deal with the problem of Centrelink debt. In a number of instances this combination of pressures had led to customers being prosecuted and facing criminal conviction where there was little evidence of criminal intent to defraud. The disturbing consequences of funding constraints to both legal aid commissions and community legal centres were also evident in the research, with participants often pleading guilty in the absence of legal advice and representation.
Key Subject Area(s)