What happens if Centrelink rejects your claim for a particular payment, cancels your payments or advises you that you owe a debt?

There are some things that can help when it comes to dealing with Centrelink.

1. Test your eligibility

If you are not sure whether you would qualify for a particular Centrelink payment, test your eligibility by lodging a claim. Don’t just accept what someone else says, or what a Centrelink officer says about whether you might qualify. Lodge a claim and test your eligibility.

2. Keep records

Keep records of your contact with Centrelink, including copies of all forms you submit and the date they were lodged. Obtain a receipt number if you speak to a Centrelink officer on the telephone, especially if it is an important call. Sometimes these records can help later.

3. Know your responsibilities

It can be tempting not to pay close attention to all the letters you receive from Centrelink. It is important to read Centrelink letters carefully as the letter may be notice of a Centrelink decision or might give you a time limit that you may need to comply with. You should also be aware of what your responsibilities are, such as what changes of circumstances you need to tell Centrelink about or how you should go about reporting your income.

4. Watch out for time limits

There are some situations where time limits can be very important. For example, some family assistance payments have to be claimed within a certain period of time. Another example is that generally you must appeal a decision within 13 weeks of receiving written notice of a decision in order to obtain back pay if your appeal is ultimately successful.

5. Challenge a decision

If Centrelink makes a decision you do not agree with there are avenues to challenge the decision. Initially, you can seek an internal review by a Centrelink Authorised Review Officer. If you are still unhappy with the decision you can lodge an application for review with the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. There are further levels of appeal after that. It is a good idea to obtain legal advice about how to challenge a decision and whether you have a strong case.

6. Obtain specialist advice

Social security law is complex and changes relatively frequently. Most lawyers do not practise in this area or have knowledge about it. The best place to start is to get independent advice from someone with specific knowledge of social security law. Here are some places:

Welfare Rights Centre is a community legal centre that practises only in social security and family assistance law. For free telephone advice call (02) 9211 5300 or 1800 226 028.

Social Security Service at Legal Aid NSW provides free legal advice about social security matters. The main office is in Central Sydney. Call (02) 9219 5790 to make an appointment or to find out which Legal Aid offices or outreach clinics near you offer this type of advice. 

 Law Society Solicitor Referral Service can refer you to private s  solicitors who practise in  social security law. Phone (02) 9926 0300.

This information was provided by Sydney Lawyer, Linda Rogers  www.lindarogers.com.au

  • Note: This publication is general information only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. You should contact a lawyer to obtain legal advice about your specific situation.