Open Letter to Centrelink

I spent most of my long working life assuming that, like my parents, my superannuation would mean I would not be reliant on Centrelink in my retirement. Unexpected events intervened and in my old age I find myself a very grateful pensioner.

I now find that my only calculation has to be whether the very small, decreasing amount of super I managed to save after those life events, and which I draw on monthly in combination with my pension, will last me until I die! But this is a calculation which relies so much on guesswork that I do not feel I have to report it to Centrelink weekly!

However, shortly after my retirement years ago, which was itself some years after the date at which I could have retired and drawn a pension, I attempted to do some very occasional contract work for my former employee.

This was a form filling nightmare, much of the basis for Centrelink calculations remaining, to this day, a mystery to me. Despite the fact that I have several university degrees and one of them is a Law Masters, I decided against doing any more work because of the complicated nature of these assessments that made the prospect of a regular income on which to rely for day to day needs quite impossible. Thus today’s taxpayers have lost out because I decided not to do a little more work which would have, in the long run, saved the government a bit of money.

In those days, when one could, I preferred to wait and talk in person to an invariably pleasant and clear, human being.

Recently I have witnessed the fear of a widowed relative who following guidelines writes to Centrelink on a very regular fortnightly basis to disclose every single thing that has happened to her financially, following the lead of her late husband who regularly informed Centrelink of any change and who also reported no change. Even before this latest round of Centrelink scares she was terrified of gaol or some other stern punishment if she missed writing a letter. She tried, for some hours with some inexpert help from me, to get connected to Centrelink via the internet but she was refused the link due to internet traffic. We now know why.

It is distressing enough for some of us older people to have to rely on the government and current taxpayers in our old age. Like most folks in this situation I am extremely grateful for this pension. Thank you. But it is worse when we cannot make contact easily and are fearful.

Please simplify your system. It is many years since even the lawyers in our community made a concerted effort to use plain English wherever possible. Time for Centrelink to use Plain English and Common Sense and be properly funded so they can have sufficient staff to talk to clients in person, on the phone and on line on a prompt and clear basis.

In the long run this will save both taxpayer money and client distress.

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About Anne Powles

I am retired from paid employment. During my working life I have been variously and sometimes contemporaneously, wife, mother of four, lawyer, teacher and psychologist. I have also been a serial education junkie. As are we all, I have been an observer of the world around me. Here I have recorded some of my memories, observations and theorisings.
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