Crackdown looms for welfare cheats

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The government is set to unveil a crackdown on welfare recipients who regularly miss Centrelink appointments

The Coalition plans to crackdown on welfare cheats in its Federal Budget this month.

WELFARE “cheats” who turn up to Centrelink appointments just to get paid are facing a crackdown in next week’s Federal Budget.

According to figures reported in The Australian, 7006 jobseekers last year missed their Centrelink appointments and re-engaged at the very end of each fortnight, allowing their $579 Newstart payment to continue

Almost half of those repeated the behaviour six times or more during the year. An additional 16,492 jobseekers were flagged for “unusual” behaviour, attending Centrelink appointments at regular intervals to prevent payments being cut off.

A further 3415 people re-engaged with Centrelink every 56 days to avoid having their payments cut off, and more than 800 of those repeated the behaviour more than six times, meaning they were repeatedl­y suspended and then backpaid without consequence.

The group identified as “gaming the system” comprise about 3 per cent of the 759,000 people receiving the fortnightly Newstart allowance.

The Australian reports the crackdown on the small group of repeat offenders will by unveiled by Employment Minister Mich­aelia Cash and Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, promising “immediate and proportionate” financial punishment.

“Australia’s welfare system is there to provide a safety net for those in need — not to fund a lifestyle choice,” Senator Cash told The ­Australian. “The Coalition continues to look at ways in which to strengthen the system so that community expectations are met and to ensure­ that those that can work, do work.”

Mr Tudge said the government was targeting the “persistent group of capable people who are gaming the system”. “We need to close these loopholes so that jobseekers can’t get around their obligations,” he said.

“It is in their interests as much as the community’s for them to get back to work as quickly as possible, because the longer a ­person is on welfare, the steeper the road back to ­employment.

“We need a system that ­recognises that some have serious issues in their life and need assistance. But for those who are gaming the system, we need to introduce stronger, more immed­iate ­conse­quences.”

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