The following rights apply to anyone in receipt of a Centrelink benefit:
- The right to receive the correct amount and type of benefit;
- The right to have Centrelink decide entitlements according to the legislation and the requirement for Centrelink to be able to establish that any decision made can be supported by the legislation;
- The right to privacy
Centrelink has wide powers to collect information relating to eligibility and as a consequence is able to access information about people from other individuals and organisations, such as employers, banks and government agencies such as the Australian Taxation Office or the Department of Home Affairs.
Accessing a Centrelink file
Under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) a person is entitled to a copy of their Centrelink file. Information that cannot be obtained includes information supplied by someone else confidentially, another person’s personal information and some medical records.
For further detail on how to request your Centrelink file, see How to make a request to Centrelink for a file.
The right to written notice of decisions with reasons
Where a decision is made by Centrelink that affects a person, they have the right to receive a written decision containing the reasons for the decision, the legislative basis for the decision and the evidence considered. This information must be supplied within 28 days of a written request.
Rights if visited by a Centrelink field officer
Centrelink field officers (or Mobile Review Teams) may call at a person's home. These officers have no right to enter a person's house without consent. There is no obligation to answer questions or sign statements in their presence. A person has the right to decide whether or not to invite them into their home. It is possible to request that any interview take place at a Centrelink office or to have the questions put in writing instead.
Rights at Centrelink assessment interviews
Centrelink has the right to ask a person to attend an interview for the purposes of assessing their correct entitlement to a Centrelink benefit. However, the person attending the interview also has rights with regard to these interviews. They have the right to request that questions be put to them in writing so that they may reply in writing. Generally they will have seven or 14 days in which to respond. They also have the right to have a friend or relative accompany them to the interview.
The right not to attend a "prosecution interview" - see Prosecution.
The right to seek independent advice before giving Centrelink information
Everyone has the right to seek independent advice about any Centrelink matter. To obtain advice about a Centrelink matter, consult with an independent advisor or contact the Legal Services Commission on 1300 366 424 for legal advice or a referral to an appropriate community legal service.
The right to have an advocate
Everyone has the right to have an advocate present at any Centrelink interviews or medical examination. Another person can also be nominated to handle Centrelink business on behalf of someone else.
The right to refuse to make a statement immediately
Any request for information must be given in writing and a person should be allowed at least seven days to respond.
The right to appeal
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.