Australian Council of Social Services

Poverty is everywhere — in cities, towns and the bush across Australia: shivering people sleeping in doorways or cars; ragged people hanging around shopping centres begging for money or food; overstretched private welfare agencies unable to meet the requests for assistance; people turned away from emergency accommodation; and abused women and children turned away from refuges.

But those are only the most visible signs of poverty. The true extent of the poverty crisis is hidden.

The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) said on March 7 it feared the system’s treatment of welfare recipients was scaring individuals away from exercising their right to claim income support.

Speaking as the Senate inquiry into the Centrelink debt recovery system began, ACT ACOSS Director Susan Helyar described the system as an abuse of government power that was undermining confidence in public administration.

“Some of our members have wondered whether individuals are being encouraged to stay out of the welfare system,” she said.

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