Centrelink's 'woeful' request following woman's death leaves daughter 'traumatised'

Casey took aim at the former government's controversial Robodebt Scheme, a failed automated debt recovery program

Left: Victorian woman Casey. Right: Letter from Centrelink
Victorian woman Casey received a letter from Centrelink demanding she pay her deceased mother's debt. Source: TikTok/Supplied

A young woman grieving the loss of her mum is demanding an apology from Centrelink after receiving a letter she's labelled "dog sh*t" a year after her death.

Casey from Victoria told Yahoo News Australia it's been "traumatic" dealing with the sudden passing of her mum who suffered from a "really aggressive form of lung cancer" — but the latest government correspondence has tipped her over the edge.

The 30-year-old said she was "gobsmacked" after opening the letter from Centrelink last week "expressing their sympathies" for her loss. However, the purpose of the letter was to inform Casey of her mother's outstanding debt from 2022, an amount she's now being made to pay.

"I was just so gobsmacked that this was even something I needed to worry about," she told Yahoo. "Honestly all I want is an apology, and time to heal. It's just such a traumatic situation to have continually brought up and rubbed in my face."

Woman required to pay back deceased mum's Centrelink debt

Casey, who has a younger brother, said her mum "was a stay-at-home mum our whole lives". "She had no savings, her estate had nothing in it," the young woman said. Centrelink has requested Casey pay a total of $668.80. It's alleged her mother was overpaid that amount in benefits in December 2022.

Left reeling, Casey took to TikTok last week slamming the government for their lack of sympathy, taking aim at the former government's controversial Robodebt Scheme — an automated debt recovery program which was found to have failed.

It was designed to catch people exploiting the Centrelink welfare system but was issuing debt notices to people based on a flawed income averaging metric. More than 77,500 automatically-generated debt notices were later reduced or waived entirely over 18 months, between July 2016 to December 2018. It's not suggested this is what happened to Casey.

"I have just received today a lovely letter from Centrelink expressing their sympathies for my loss, but also acknowledging that she owes them money from 2022," Casey said in the social media video.

"Apparently, they've just noticed they've overpaid her. She has been dead for a year and [they're] only now coming for a debt from two years ago. I'm really, really glad to have the sympathy of Centrelink right now. This is dog sh*t."

Centrelink 'legally required' to chase unpaid debt

Services Australia General Manager Hank Jongen told Yahoo that while they "apologise for any distress caused" to Casey, Centrelink is "legally required" to chase up any debt.

"Where a deceased person has an outstanding debt, we are legally required to contact the executor of their estate to see if there are sufficient funds in the estate to repay the debt," he said.

"We will not pursue debts where the estate is closed or there are insufficient funds in the deceased person’s estate to repay the debt."

"We know the death of a loved one is a very difficult time and our sympathies are with the family," he continued. "We sincerely apologise for any distress caused and have a dedicated team available to help people experiencing difficulties.

People lining up outside Centrelink.
Services Australia is 'legally required' to chase up any unpaid debt after death. Source: Getty

Aussies admit they too received the same 'woeful' Centrelink letter

Responding to Casey's outcry, dozens more admitted they too experienced something similar. Others agreed it's "absolutely woeful"

"We were in a similar situation. Not your debt, not your problem," one said.

"I got the same bill for my late husband," shared another. "The letter said 'sorry for your loss' but they noticed he received his last payment the day after his death and could I pay it back. It was $220".

Speaking to Yahoo, Casey said, "It's quite obvious from the comments on the video that it's happening to lots of people across the country, not just my mum".

Do you have a story tip? Email: newsroomau@yahoonews.com.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube.