Centrelink refuses to take money back
CENTRELINK has made it almost impossible for an elderly Rasmussen woman to return a $ 1000 disaster recovery payment she did not think she was entitled to.
Kathleen Bell, 74, applied for the one-off payment after Cyclone Yasi hit but when she checked her bank, found her husband Tony, 77, who lives in a nursing home, also received the payment.
Not wanting to get into trouble for fraud, Ms Bell said she tried to return the payment several times but kept hitting brick walls.
The b l under c o mes a s Centrelink this week announced it would be chasing up dodgy or incorrect claims for disaster assistance that total about $ 1.2 million.
Mrs Bell said her husband of 56 years had been in a nursing home f or about three years, so when his payment came t hrough, she knew she had to do the honest thing and return it.
‘‘ Eventually after a number of phone calls, they said I had to take the cash into Centrelink and give it in, which I did,’’ she said.
‘‘ What a shemozzle. I saw three separate departments. They had no idea what to do. They had never been asked to take money back, so they didn’t know what to do.’’
Mrs Bell said after an hour at the office, she eventually asked them to count the money and then issue her with a receipt.
But she said the final straw came yesterday morning when she received a letter from Centrelink saying they had received $ 1000 from her, but did not know what it was for.
Mrs Bell said she had received plenty of help from her pentecostal church and the tellers at her bank to resolve the issue, but was now fed up with not being able to do the right thing.
‘‘ It doesn’t pay to be honest, does it?’’ she said.
‘‘ I don’t know how much more I can tell them about why I have given it back and what else I can do?’’
Centrelink general manager Hank Jongen said staff were fielding similar requests across the state.
‘ ‘ Centrelink can accept these payments from customers at our customer service centres and issue them with a receipt. We’ll also update their customer record to reflect the fact they’ve returned the money.
‘‘ Centrelink will remind staff in the region about the process involved in receiving returned payments.’’
RED TAPE: Kathleen Bell seems to have baffled Centrelink