Assisting vulnerable clients with SRSS debts

Assisting vulnerable clients with SRSS debts

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Recently we have received calls from clients who have been told by Centrelink that they owe money due to an overpayment whilst receiving financial assistance under the Commonwealth Government’s Status Resolution and Support Services (SRSS) program.

The SRSS program provides support and assistance to people who are living in Australia whilst their application for a protection visa is being processed. The types of services provided mainly include financial, medical and hou​sing.

Services under the program are provided by various organisations contracted to the Department of Home Affairs (previously the Department of Immigration and Border Protection). Financial assistance is provided through the Department of Human Services (Centrelink).

In most cases, people applying for protection visas who are experiencing financial hardship, will be eligible for SRSS payments. However, overpayments can occur when a person continues to receive payments despite them no longer meeting the strict eligibility criteria under the program. If this occurs, Centrelink will send the person a letter saying that they have been overpaid and requesting payment of the overpayment debt.

The options for a person faced with a SRSS debt are limited.

Resources for clients

Our Acting Migration Program Manager Alex Jannetto says our new resources were developed due to the lack of information currently available to people faced with SRSS debts. ‘We are seeing vulnerable clients who are already experiencing financial hardship being told that they owe large amounts of money to Centrelink. We hope that these new resources will assist this already disadvantaged group exercise their right to seek a review of the debt decision, or ultimately a waiver of the debt’.

Debts owed under the Status Resolution and Support Services Program covers:

  • how a person can seek a review of Centrelink’s decision
  • what happens if a person does not pay the debt when it is due
  • what a person can do if they are unable to repay the debt and
  • how to make a complaint about Centrelink.

We have also included sample letters that a person can download to send to Centrelink (when seeking a review of the debt) or the Department of Finance (when seeking a waiver of the debt).

Resources for lawyers

And to assist lawyers who may be advising clients with SRSS debts, we have another resource, Advising on debts owed under the Status Resolution and Support Services Program. This fact sheet provides an overview of the SRSS program and includes a checklist for lawyers to use when giving advice to clients. The fact sheet can be downloaded from our lCivil law resources

More information

Read more at Debts owed under the Status Resolution and Support Services Program.

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