Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Talking to families to reduce likelihood of FTB overpayments

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, said she was committed to work with families to find ways to reduce overpayments of the Family Tax Benefit.

She said that she had travelled to Centrelink offices in New South Wales and Victoria to listen first hand to families who had incurred a debt through overpayment of the FTB.

“I have been concerned about overpayments and I have been to Centrelink offices to listen carefully to families receiving the FTB on this issue and to find ways of reducing the likelihood of overpayment of the FTB,” Senator Patterson said.

“I am committed to ensuring that families in the same circumstances on similar incomes should receive the same entitlements.

“People who have ‘lumpy’ incomes can find it difficult to estimate their income accurately. This can be because of things such as people moving in and out of the workforce, a promotion or the payment of a bonus.

“I am talking to people on the ground to try and help them avoid overpayments as much as possible.”

Senator Patterson said More Choices for Families, introduced by the Government late last year, had given families more choices to reduce the likelihood of an overpayment.

To avoid an overpayment families have been given more choices to help match their payments to the families’ circumstances and reduce the risk of being overpaid.

Senator Patterson said the Howard Government had increased expenditure on family assistance by about $2 billion a year. About 2 million families with 3.5 million children have received the FTB.

“If a family overestimated its income and received a lower benefit, it was entitled to a “top-up” payment to ensure they get their correct entitlement,” she said.

“Under Labor no families were entitled to a top-up payment. If you overestimated your income it was your bad luck.

“I have expressed my concern about the number of people who are in receipt of overpayments and I am considering how we can reduce the likelihood of them getting an overpayment,” Senator Patterson said.

“I am talking to Centrelink about how we can increase their awareness of the More Choices for Families program.

“We are giving families more than Labor ever gave them. Those who get too much pay it back, those who get too little get a top-up. Under Labor, they never got a top-up.”