Five things you need to know about dealing with Centrelink

February 04, 2016
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If you’re soon to turn 22, there's a good chance this will be your first time approaching Centrelink for their services. If you’re moving out of home you’ll require assistance regardless, but there’s also the option of Youth Allowance (aka Austudy). You may have also heard the news that Centrelink’s cracking down on fraudsters by trawling their social media accounts for evidence that they’re cheating the system. To help you navigate the whole Centrelink thing and to ensure you’re doing it the honest way, we’ve put together a handy guide. You’re welcome.

The application system is designed to be thorough

Once you get past this, it’s usually smooth sailing. Here’s the thing though: a national welfare system needs to be kept in check to ensure that money is being spent responsibly by the government. There are all kinds of bodies and agencies who oversee everything, mainly the Australian Tax Office. Because of this, Centrelink registration is deliberately time-consuming. This isn’t necessarily wrong by any means, but prepare for some stalling time, whether you’re calling Centrelink on the phone, going to a department office or navigating the websites. And while we’re on the topic of being thorough, make sure you tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Getting caught out won’t be pretty.

MyGov.au is not the same as Centrelink.gov.au

Because it’s 2016 and the world is a very futuristic place, pretty much all of Centrelink’s application, consultation, scheduling and information retrieval processes have been put online. This isn’t new. What is new is MyGov, the government’s central, streamlined “all-in-one” service. You get a MyGov username and password, but this is not your Centrelink Account Number (CAN), which is what you actually need to gain access to the Centrelink.gov.au domain for specific requests. You can log into Centrelink off MyGov for some things, but you will still be required to access Centrelink.gov with your CAN if a payment is missed or another hiccup occurs. There’s also humanservices.gov.au, which administers MyGov. It gets confusing, but you’ll work it out over time.

Bring a book if you have to go in

Despite some pretty solid recent updates, 99 per cent of the time you’re going to have to physically get off your butt and go into a Centrelink office to speak with a representative. This is another step in the process and, again, a way of double-checking that the money is flowing where it says so on paper. By this point you’re probably on a downhill run, but the reality is you’re probably going to spend a decent amount of time sitting down. Centrelink offices also shut earlier than everywhere else in the afternoon too, so account for that.

Bring 100 points of identification even if they ask for 75

Most of us probably remember how finicky it is trying to buy a phone plan, and how frustrating it can be if you’re told to go back home and get more ID first. This happens all the time. If you’re claiming student benefits as a dependent, you’re technically meant to bring in less ID than an independent beneficiary, but that policy isn’t upheld in all Centrelink offices. Bring 100 points of ID each and every time. Side note: if you’re not sure whether you qualify as dependent or independent, have a look at this handy checklist.

Have patience, but don’t stress - the system works

Because of the money factor, everything is recorded and logged. If there’s a slip-up and you miss a payment, that slip-up will be on their system and you’ll eventually be able to resolve it - every time. And remember, the staff do want to help. With perspective, the whole thing will be pretty breezy. 

Jonathon Davidson

Jonathon is studying journalism at Murdoch University in Perth.

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