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Income Management

Community Affairs 24 February 2011

Senator SIEWERT—Thank you. That is much appreciated. Is it here that I ask about income management?
Dr Harmer—Yes.

Senator SIEWERT—I would like to record my thanks for the briefing that we received from the department. That was very much appreciated. I will go on to the Bath report if I have time, but I also appreciated that briefing as well. At that briefing, you will recall that I did ask for the breakdown of the figures. You gave us a whole lot of figures. By the way, could we please put on the public record—and you do not need to go through it now—the numbers of people that have been rolled over onto income management that were in communities. There are 73 prescribed communities that have rolled over. I know that you have given us some of these, and I presume it has been updated since then: the number of people that have gone newly on to income management; the number of people that have been classified as vulnerable; the number of  people that have come off income management; and the number of people that have been exempted. If it is possible, break that down to reasons.

Dr Harmer—We should be able to give you all of that.

Senator SIEWERT—I particularly want to know, and I did highlight this in the briefing, the number of people that have been exempted who are Aboriginal and those who are non-Aboriginal. You will realise why I want those figures.

Dr Harmer—Sure.

Senator SIEWERT—Are you able to give me those two figures?

Ms Hefren-Webb—I can give you those figures.

Ms Carroll—For the people on the new income management, we have a split between the exemptions for Indigenous and non-Indigenous.

Senator SIEWERT—Yes.

Ms Carroll—Of the exemptions, I think about 24 per cent were Indigenous and the remainder were non-Indigenous. They are the people currently on the new model of income management.

Senator SIEWERT—Can you provide the time frame in which those decisions are made in terms of exemption and what are the criteria that have been used for the exemptions?

Ms Hefren-Webb—The exemptions criteria depend on whether or not you are a parent with dependent children. If you are a parent with dependent children, the criteria relate to issues to do with your child’s health checks or school attendance. If you do not have dependent children, it relates to your recent history of work or study. Some 1,754 people have been exempt from the new model of income management; 848 of those have met the parenting requirement; 29 met the criteria for paid employment; 869 met the criteria for being a full-time student; and eight as a new apprentice.
You also asked about the time frame in which those decisions are made. People can apply at whatever point they like for an exemption. Subject to the provision of relevant documentation, the decision is made straightaway, but that documentation can take some time for people to acquire. If you have been denied an exemption, you cannot then reapply for another 12 months.

Senator SIEWERT—Is that appealable?

Ms Hefren-Webb—Yes, exemption decisions are appealable. We currently have no appeals to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal, but we have had some internal appeals.

Senator SIEWERT—You currently have no appeals to the exemption?

Ms Hefren-Webb—No, to the SSAT.

Ms Carroll—There are two different ways.

Senator SIEWERT—Have you had any to the SSAT?

Ms Hefren-Webb—No, none thus far.

Senator SIEWERT—I was just checking to see if any had been dealt with. What about internal appeals?

Ms Hefren-Webb—We have had 44 decisions reviewed by a Centrelink original decision maker, which is the first step in the appeal process, and 25 reviewed by an authorised review officer.

Senator SIEWERT—Do you mean you have had 69 all up?

Ms Hefren-Webb—Some of those might be duplicates. People can appeal to the original decision maker or ask for a review of the decision and get a response. They may then go further.

Senator SIEWERT—So you could be double-counting?

Ms Hefren-Webb—We could be double-counting.

Senator SIEWERT—How many of those have been upheld?

Ms Hefren-Webb—Of the decisions by the original decision maker, four involved setting aside the original  decision and one involved a variation of the decision. Under the authorised review officer, two decisions were set aside.

Senator SIEWERT—Last estimates we were talking about the documentation and I had been told that people had been required to get police records to show that they had not been subject to domestic violence. Is  that in fact what is required? You hear lots of things and I am wondering what are the records and where people have to go to get those records?

Ms Hefren-Webb—The records they would be obtaining would be school attendance records, so they would be obtained from their local school or from the NT education authorities. Their child health information is available either from their clinic or from Medicare.

Senator SIEWERT—From Medicare?

Ms Hefren-Webb—You can ask for your child’s immunisation record from Medicare.

Senator SIEWERT—Okay.

Ms Hefren-Webb—Full-time student—most of the students on income support already supply that documentation in relation to their youth allowance application, so that documentation is available. Evidence of a work history is also often on record with Centrelink, but people can provide pay slips or group certificates. I am not aware of any requirement to provide a police record under the exemption process.

Senator SIEWERT—Returning to financial counselling, with respect to people who have applied for an exemption, for example, what happens to them? What sort of other help do they receive?

Ms Hefren-Webb—It depends a bit on where they have come from. If they have previously been on income management for the last three years under the NTER intervention measure, there is a detailed discussion with them because they might have a residual amount in their account, they might have deductions set up to pay for bills, et cetera. If they have successfully sought exemption and are going to come off, Centrelink has the discussion with them about changing those arrangements, setting up their own deductions, and offers them a referral to the money management provider. In the case where a person has not previously been on income management and is successfully exempted, obviously that is a less intensive process, but they would be offered the referral to the money management provider.

Senator SIEWERT—Even where they have been exempt?

Ms Hefren-Webb—Correct.

Senator SIEWERT—I will put the rest of my questions on notice. Some of these issues I can follow up tomorrow. I have one general question I would like.

 

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