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Social security recipients and family assistance

Social security recipients and family assistance

The law about social security and family assistance can be complicated, and it often changes.

If you:

  • claim a Centrelink benefit you aren't entitled to, or

  • don't tell Centrelink when something changes that may affect your payments

you may have to repay any money you were not entitled to. In some cases you could also be charged with social security fraud. In this situation you will need legal advice.

Get help with Centrelink's automated debts

Go to the Victoria Legal Aid website for information on this.

When should I get legal advice about social security matters?

Some cases where you should get legal advice are:

  • You are concerned about prosecution.

  • People who receive an overpayment may in some circumstances also be prosecuted in the criminal courts. This can happen even if you have paid the money back.

    Centrelink can use any information you give them to assist in prosecuting you.

    If you are concerned about prosecution or you are invited to an interview or make a statement you should seek legal advice. If you go to an interview, Centrelink can make a record of what you say and can use it in court later.

  • You have been charged with an offence.

  • Overpayment.

  • If you have received notice from Centrelink that you have an overpayment and you disagree with it.

  • Appeals.

  • If you disagree with a decision of Centrelink and wish to know the procedures for appealing decisions made by Centrelink or the Department of Human Services - Child Support. Sometimes you will have to start your appeal within 13 weeks.

  • Disability support pension.

  • You have been refused a disability support pension or your current disability support pension has been decreased or stopped.

  • Centrelink wants you to provide information. You have received a letter requesting that you attend an interview with Centrelink. You have been asked to provide a statement.

  • You feel intimidated by a Centrelink employee.

  • You have been charged with social security fraud.

  • You have received a compensation payout.

  • If you are unable to access a social security benefit because of a compensation payout and you are experiencing financial hardship.

  • You have received a letter from Centrelink and you don't understand it.

  • You have been refused a benefit you believe you are entitled to.

  • You have been refused payment of a special benefit.

  • You disagree with a waiting period.

  • Your payments have been suspended or stopped and you do not understand why.

  • Your payments have been stopped or decreased and you disagree.

If you are contacted by Centrelink because you have been overpaid, to review your entitlements or about any other issue, it's important to get legal advice before you make any statements or answer any questions.

What if a have a complaint about Centrelink?

If you are not happy with Centrelink administrative procedures or service delivery (as opposed to a Centrelink decision) it is possible to lodge a complaint.

Making a complaint about how Centrelink provides a service is not the same as appealing a decision that Centrelink has made about your entitlement or money that you owe them.

You can make a complaint about Centrelink administrative procedures or service delivery :

  • online
  • by phoning the Centrelink feedback and complaints line on 1800 132 468 or if you are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech impairment, you can use the National Relay Service
  • by writing to (no postage stamp required)
    • Centrelink and Medicare: DHS Complaints and Feedback Reply Paid 7788 Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610.
    • Child Support: Child Support Complaints and Feedback Reply Paid 9815  Melbourne, VIC 3001

If Centrelink is unable to resolve a complaint to your satisfaction, it will explain why and let you know what other options you have. These options may include:

  • Asking for a review of your case by the person who made the original decision affecting you.
  • Asking for review of a decision by an authorised review officer (ARO).
  • Contacting the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
  • Contacting your member of parliament.

What if I have a complaint about a jobactive employment service provider?

jobactive is the Australian Government's employment service.

If you don’t think you are receiving the right help and would like to make a complaint, talk to your jobactive provider first. Your jobactive provider will offer a feedback process which is fair and will try to resolve your concerns.

If you are unable to speak to your provider, or if you are still not happy, you can contact the Department of Employment’s National Customer Service Line on 1800 805 260 (free call from land lines) or email

If you have raised a complaint with Department of Employment (DoE) and are not satisfied with the way the DoE has dealt with it, you may make a complaint to the Commonwealth Ombudsman's office.

Where can I get more information?

  • Contact Legal Aid WA's Infoline on 1300 650 579 for information or referrals.

  • Contact the Welfare Rights and Advocacy Service of WA on (08) 9328 1751. This is a community legal centre offering assistance to Centrelink benefit recipients. Its website contains factsheets including about Centrelink debts and appealing Centrelink decisions.
  • Visit the National Welfare Rights Network website for various self help forms.
  • Visit the Centrelink website for general information about the agency. Payment Finder on this website is an online tool to see what payments are available in different circumstances and the eligibility basics for these payments.

  • Centrelink has free calls (from any landline or with a Telstra mobile) for Abstudy students (1800 132 317), those on income management (1800 132 594) and Indigenous people (1800 136 380)

  • Contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman's Office on 1300 362 072 or find an online complaint form on its website.

  • Visit the Department of Social Services website for information on commonwealth programs services, benefits and payments for families and others on income support.

  • Visit the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) website for information about the review process for decisions  made by officers of the Department of Human Services, including about social security payments, family assistance payments, child support, paid parental leave and student assistance payments, by the Social Services and Child Support Division of the AAT or phone 1800 228 333. Click here to view AAT fact sheets to help applicants prepare for AAT reviews of social security payment and child support decisions.

Last reviewed: 09/09/2015

Last modified: 13/02/2017 10:02 AM


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.