And at a time when thousands miss out on government payments

prampramSince early 2010, The Australia Institute has researched the extent to which Australians who are entitled to government assistance are missing out. Given the populist focus on ‘welfare cheats’ we thought it would be interesting to examine the flip side of the coin. In Missing Out: Unclaimed government assistance and concession benefits we estimated that across just four Centrelink payments, more than $620 million was being foregone each year.

Two new research papers further explore this issue: one examining the Parenting Payment, the other looking at the Education Tax Refund.

Our new analysis found that more than 113,000 Australians are missing out on the Parenting Payment despite being eligible. The payment would entitle them to around $206 per week. In addition to those people missing out, almost one per cent of recipients were identified as being underpaid.

Assessing the number of Australians missing out on assistance is difficult, as the government does not actively attempt to find these people. Yet, the government appears more than happy to use its data-matching program to identify those who are being overpaid or aren’t entitled. The data-matching program cross-checks income and personal details held by one agency against similar data held by other agencies, primarily the Australian Tax Office.

In 2009-10 data-matching by Centrelink found that in nine per cent of the cases reviewed there was some level of overpayment. In contrast, convictions for fraud represent less than 0.1 per cent of all cases reviewed by Centrelink. The number of people estimated to be missing out on assistance payments is greater than the number of people committing welfare fraud.

A lack of awareness of available support is consistently cited as one of the primary reasons for people missing out on government payments.

The Australia Institute found overwhelming public support (75 per cent) for the government to do more to find people who are missing out on assistance payments.

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