Anyone in receipt of social security payments is required to notify Centrelink of any changes in their income, assets and other circumstances. This obligation is stated on letters sent to clients, usually pre-printed on the reverse side of Centrelink correspondence. Centrelink has wide powers to obtain information from any person (including government agencies, banks and employers) on any matter relating to a person’s social security entitlement [see Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 (Cth) ss 192 and 195]. For example, Centrelink can obtain tax records to check information about a recipient’s income, or personnel records from employers to check a recipient’s employment status.
Centrelink also conducts random reviews of clients’ eligibility and entitlements, and participates in data matching programs with other government departments as part of its program to limit fraud. Centrelink will investigate information which comes to it from any source, anonymous or otherwise. Investigating officers, usually part of mobile review teams, may conduct field visits to investigate allegations of fraud, or as part of a standard review.
A recipient of a Centrelink benefit has the responsibility to keep Centrelink informed of any changes in their circumstances, including where:
- there are any changes to their income (including compensation payments);
- there are changes to their assets;
- there are changes to the amount paid in rent;
- they change your address — if mail is returned to Centrelink unclaimed, payments may be stopped;
- they vary their enrolment/study load;
- they become a member of a couple;
- they cease to be a member of a couple;
- they have a dependant child leave their care;
- there are changes in their partner’s income
Any change in circumstances must be provided within 14 days of the event occurring. Notification can be made in writing, over the phone or in person at a Centrelink office.
If a person fails to notify Centrelink about changes in their circumstances, they may find themselves in debt.
It is prudent to keep a copy of any documents relating to a change in circumstances that are sent to Centrelink.
Any person who deliberately or intentionally fails to notify Centrelink about changes in their circumstances could be charged with fraud, which can be a serious criminal offence - see Prosecution.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.