INDEPENDENT NEWS

The Quarter-Billion Dollar Welfare Debt

Published: Wed 11 Oct 2006 11:04 AM
The Quarter-Billion Dollar Welfare Debt
Heather Roy
Wednesday, 11 October 2006
Press Releases - Social Welfare
A quarter of a billion dollars of unpaid debt is owed by welfare beneficiaries, according to new answers to parliamentary questions released by ACT Social Services spokesman, Heather Roy.
"This $261 million dollars is made up of money owed by recipients of the Invalid's Benefit, Sickness Benefit, Unemployment Benefit and Domestic Purposes Benefit", Mrs Roy said.
"More than 141,000 beneficiaries are now indebted to the State, over and above what they receive in their normal benefit. This is an increase of 11,000 beneficiaries owing money while Labour has been in office.
"Since Labour came into government, the amount owed by Sickness Benefit recipients has increased by 137% to more than $48.8 million. Debt accrued by Invalid's Benefit recipients has increased by 179% to over $51.1 million over the same period.
"While Labour Ministers boast about their economic success, these figures show that more people are living in poverty, having to borrow money to top up their benefits.
"Under the Labour Government, the amount owed by people on the DPB has increased by $31 million, blowing out to more than $122 million.
"While recently released figures show that dads who have moved to Australia are not meeting their financial responsibilities with regard to their children, mums are left here to mind the children, and are having to borrow money from the State to make ends meet.
"The Minister for Social Development and Employment, David Benson-Pope, has revealed that these debts, which are often repaid very slowly, incur no penalty interest.
"If a taxpayer makes an error in their paperwork, the IRD applies punitive interest and penalties - but beneficiaries taking advantage of our welfare system face no such sanction.
ENDS

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