Showing posts with label welfare payments. Show all posts
Showing posts with label welfare payments. Show all posts

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

An as yet unconfirmed rumour about the Indue Cashless Welfare Card


Indue Limited (ABN 97 087 822 464) is a bank and Authorised Deposit-Taking Institution (“ADI”) that is regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority. Indue is owned by financial institutions, each of which is also an ADI. Indue provides transaction processing and settlement services to credit unions, building societies, church funds, mortgage originators, commercial clients and the Australian government.

via @CartwheelPrint


Facebook, The Say NO Seven, 9 August 2019:

🐦⚠⚠⚠⚠⚠ #LNP_CASHLESS_CARD_AGENDA 


Whistle blower testimony sent to the SNS has confirmed the LNP agenda for Indue Cards.


As long time members are aware, the SNS operates an encrypted mail service and drop box specifically for those people within the system to speak out in relative safety.


A rarely used resource, this week and we assume as a direct result of the the muzzling of certain sectors, we have received information from two independent sources attached to the department and public service that corroborate our concerns.


The LNP Agenda is clear. They are "confidant" that regardless of whether ALP support/do not support further expansions, that with Cross Bench support, they will reach this target prior to the next Federal election.


We do not send this notice to generate groundless fear. We send it to inform you and to inform those within our government who feel themselves above the law and the will of the people, that we *will* and will continue to resist.


We have deliberated deeply about presenting this information, which should come as no real surprise to those are literate in card matters and current political machinations.


We concluded it was necessary to post, despite being unable to provide documentation to you at this time, as has been our standard thus far and will continue to be. The risks are simply too great to not speak out now, while we still can, and are as great as the risks whistle blowers face if we provide any further detail.


We can confirm the sources are credible, reliable, are informed, and have been vetted.


⚠ We must reiterate that AT THIS TIME there are NO Bills before parliament that would permit ANY further roll out in ANY location nor are there any current Bills before parliament to expand payment captures to include aged pension aka under the Act as Mature Aged Payment. 


We must continue to remain steadfast and take one step at a time, and take each presentation to parliament as it comes.


Information sharing over several weeks along with these new posts has confirmed that four Bills concerning or including cashless cards are in progress and that these Bills may arrive as a single Omnibus Bill. We are informed that the writing of these Bills has been outsourced to partisan legal interests.


Even so, as we said, we must remain steadfast and take each presentation to parliament as it comes and not allow fear to dictate or determine *our* outcomes decisions or directions.


We send this to you for 'the grace of time' - for your emotional and mental preparation and for wider general awareness of what we are likely to be facing over the next three years.


We will post over the next week on just what this agenda, if successful, could mean for Australians and our nation and economy; on the utilization and role of religious groups as relates to LNP's social welfare policy as a whole; and we will also speak on issues of effective resistance.


Now we know. Time to wake the masses.


Heads up..eyes open..no fear. ✊


- SNS🌿


Monday, 12 August 2019

So is there an army of "Quiet Australians" backing the Morrison Coalition Government or is it just another political myth


The Morrison Coalition Government, its ministers, senators and MPs, have been making much of the notion that there is a large mass of citizens who quietly agree with them on every subject they discuss and every policy position they hold. 

This survey suggests that rather than there being a large number of head nodders in the community, these so-called 'quiet' Australians may broadly disagree with the Morrison Government on issues involving treatment of vulnerable people and low income households - especially when it comes to the Newstart Allowance 
level of payment
  http://www.scribd.com/document/421336946/Essential-Report-Australian-survey-8-August-2019

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Under Prime Minister Scott Morrison's own peculiar mix of politics & social engineering the 'haves' are relentlessly screwing the 'have nots' into the ground


ABC News, 2 August 2019: 

Whistleblowers are warning a $351 million Government program aimed at getting parents back to work is exploiting vulnerable single mothers, and even the homeless. 

Key points: 


ParentsNext is a $351 million scheme to get parents on welfare to meet work and study goals, then return to the workforce 


Employment service providers receive $600 for every client who is on ParentsNext 


Whistleblowers say service providers have kept parents in the scheme who should be exempt. 

At the centre of the controversy is ParentsNext, a program some people must take part in to receive parenting payments from Centrelink. 

It is also the first Australia-wide program to allow private employment service providers to decide who must participate. 

Background Briefing has interviewed current and former employees in Australia's lucrative employment services sector who claim some caseworkers are pressured to sign up and retain people who face significant personal crises, even though departmental guidelines stipulate they should be exempted. 

Homeless but signed up anyway Mel, 33, is one of more than 3,000 homeless Australians who've been signed up to the compulsory employment training program ParentsNext despite having no fixed address to take a shower or prepare a warm meal for her kids. 

A mother of four, Mel's spent more than two years on Tasmania's public housing waiting list. 

She was furious when she received a letter demanding she undergo an eligibility assessment for ParentsNext or else her parenting payments would be cut off. 

 "It's degrading, it's making us feel like we're lazy, like we're not doing nothing for our kids," said Mel, whose last name is being withheld for privacy reasons. Guidelines from the Department of Jobs specify Centrelink could have exempted her from participating on the grounds of her homelessness. 

Mel was instead referred to a local not-for-profit community provider, Workskills, which were paid a government fee just for her turning up. Under ParentsNext, employment service providers are paid $600 for each new recipient they take on. 

Mel was exempted at her first meeting with Workskills, but will be re-examined for eligibility in 12 months. She says she can't understand why the Department did not exempt her at the outset.

Despite being exempted from ParentsNext, last week Mel's parenting payment was cut off after she forgot to tick a box declaring her zero income to Centrelink.

ABCBackground Briefing, "Welfare to Worse", 2 August 2019 podcast here.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

The unemployed in Australia have been betrayed yet again


A Liberal Party dominated Australian House Of Representatives Select Committee on Intergenerational Welfare Dependence betrayed vulnerable Australians in April 2019.

However, neither the Labor Party nor Centre Alliance can walk away from the shameful part they played in this betrayal.

The Age, 23 July 2019:

A bipartisan call to increase the Newstart allowance was removed from a parliamentary report at the direction of the Morrison government on the eve of the federal election.

As Prime Minister Scott Morrison stares down growing demands by Coalition MPs to lift the unemployment benefit for the first time since 1994, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age can reveal former social services minister Paul Fletcher intervened in an inquiry to erase a major recommendation that would have turbo-charged the sensitive issue.

The probe into the causes of long-term welfare was established by the government in mid-2018 to investigate why some Australians become trapped in the system.
The draft final report - agreed to by MPs from the Coalition, Labor and crossbench - contained a specific call to lift the Newstart payment for singles and families.

But sources said Mr Fletcher demanded to review the recommendations before they were publicly released in April and is understood to have told the committee chair - veteran Liberal MP Russell Broadbent - that the final report could not contain the specific Newstart recommendation.

The committee, which included Liberal MPs Kevin Andrews, Bert van Manen, Ben Morton and Rowan Ramsey, as well as Labor MPs Ged Kearney and Sharon Bird, was then hastily reconvened to change the wording of the report.

The opposition's policy at the time was to merely review Newstart rather than raise it.

Following Mr Fletcher's intervention, MPs agreed to only recommend an examination of the "adequacy of payments on young people and single parent families".

In a sign of the growing sensitivity of the issue, Mr Morrison on Tuesday warned Coalition MPs against airing personal views, telling them "government is not a blank cheque" and that they disrespected colleagues by pursuing personal policy agendas.

Amended Final Report can be found here.

Australian Parliamentary Library Briefing Book, retrieved 18 July 2019;

From 20 March 2020, Newstart Allowance will be replaced by a new JobSeeker Payment. Over time a number of other working age payments such as Sickness Allowance and Widow Allowance will end and recipients will also move to the JobSeeker Payment. The new payment will have the same payment rates and indexation arrangements as Newstart Allowance. This is part of a 2017–18 budget measure that aims to simplify the income support system. [my yellow highlighting]

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Australian Prime Minister Morrison's relentless hammering of the poor and vulnerable set to continue?


The Guardian, 7 July 2019:

The Morrison government says it remains committed to a plan criticised as “brutal” to dock the welfare of those who repeatedly fail to pay state fines, and may still proceed with cuts to student payments claimed by the unemployed, the disabled and sole parents.

The Coalition introduced a number of welfare measures in 2017 which drew the ire of social service groups but ultimately never came into effect because the government failed to win the support of the Senate or the states and territories.

Guardian Australia reported this month that internal documents suggested the contentious plan to drug test welfare recipients was not a priority, but the government has insisted it remains on its agenda.

Other welfare proposals from the last parliament included about $90m in cuts to student payments, legislation to automatically deduct rent from welfare recipients living in social housing, which critics said could put family violence survivors at risk, and a plan to impose the “demerit point” compliance scheme on those doing the remote work-for-the-dole program, which has seen payment suspensions surge…...

But the spokesman did confirm the government still intended to create the scheme to automatically dock 15% of payments for those who have unpaid fines…...

The Encouraging Lawful Behaviour of Income Support Recipients proposal remains government policy and requires legislative approval,” Ruston’s spokesman said…..

Labor had opposed the cuts to the $208-a-year pensioner education supplement and the $32.20-a week education entry payment, which are intended to help low-income people with the cost of study.

The changes would save the budget $95m over five years, but the opposition said the policy would hurt people with disability, carers, sole parents and the unemployed.

The Australian Council of Social Service has previously lashed the plan to dock welfare payments from people with court-ordered state fines as “particularly brutal”.

The proposal would automatically dock 15% of an income support payment, but critics say it will push vulnerable people into homelessness.

Welfare groups including the Australian Unemployed Workers Union have also expressed grave concerns about a plan announced last year to link Newstart recipients to farm work using the national database.

The unemployed would face losing their welfare payments for four weeks if they turned down what the government described as a “suitable job without reasonable excuse”.

The department of employment confirmed the policy would begin in July next year.

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

On the subject of income, welfare support and spending


Will negative wage growth, the acute poverty of jobless people combined with the avarice of employers and punitive federal government policy intesect to create a perect storm which will see household spending fall this year?   

Current state of play......

ABC News, 23 February 2019:

Rather, Dr Lowe saw stagnant household incomes is a much bigger threat to consumer spending, and thus to the 60 per cent of the economy based on it.
"Aggregate household income used to grow at 6 per cent, it's growing sub-3," he told the MPs on the committee.

"That's a big difference, and you accumulate that over three or four years and income is 8, 10 or 12 per cent lower than it otherwise would have been.

"Many people borrowed assuming their incomes would grow at the old rate and they haven't.

"They're having more difficulty, they've got less free cash and so they can't spend, so this is why I've put so much emphasis on the need for a pick-up in wage growth."
Dr Lowe told the committee he has been using speeches to try and lift wage expectations, while the RBA has been keeping interest rates low and stable for an extended period of time to relieve the pressure on households.

The RBA governor said, while the strategy seems to be working — with unemployment down at 5 per cent and wage growth starting to pick up from recent lows — he could use a bit more help from the Fair Work Commission and employers.
Fair Work last year awarded a 3.5 per cent pay rise for those on the minimum wage and linked awards, and Dr Lowe said that was a "sensible and right policy" and a similar increase this year "makes a lot of sense".

"If workers get their normal long-run share of that [productivity increase] then their real wages should rise by 1 per cent a year," he said.

Financial Review,  7 February 2019:

Consumer anxiety has reached its highest level in three years, with households spending less on discretionary items as they worry about their finances and the future.

The National Australia Bank consumer anxiety index rose to 62 points in the December quarter, and close to 40 per cent of those surveyed said they had experienced financial hardship during the quarter – the highest level in two years.

Households said they had pulled back their spending on things like travel, eating out and entertainment due to heightened anxiety about their financial conditions.

The primary causes of anxiety through the December quarter were how to finance one's retirement and how to provide for one's family's future....

"What's happening here is you haven't got much wages growth, you're paying off utilities, you're paying off debt, and you're doing things that you have to do."

Mr Oster said after doing all those things, there wasn't much money left for households.

Anxiety about job security reached its highest level since 2016, and 50 per cent of homes in hardship found their financial position impacted by high utility bills.

The Guardian, 17 September 2018:

A proposal to increase Newstart allowance by $75 a week would lead to a boost in consumer spending, creating more than 10,000 jobs and lifting wages, a new report shows.

The report by Deloitte Access Economics, released on Monday morning, said the policy to increase the incomes of more than 700,000 people by $10.71 a day would cost the federal budget $3.3bn a year.

But a “prosperity dividend” would see the government collect an extra $1bn in taxes as a result of a stronger economy, and the proposal was also projected to create 12,000 extra jobs in 2020-21 and increase wages by 0.2%.

It comes amid debate about the rate of Newstart, which at $272.90 for a single person has not risen in real terms in more than two decades. It will increase by $2.20 this week as a result of indexation.

The Australian Council of Social Service (Acoss), business groups, unions and a former prime minister, John Howard, have all argued for an increase, but the government has so far dismissed those calls….

The bulk of the economic benefits from increasing the payment would go to the bottom 5% of Australian income earners, who would receive “six times the dollars going to the highest income quintile”. The “poorest of the poor” would receive 28 times the relative boost to their disposable incomes, than the top income quintile.

Regional areas “most in need of help” would be key winners from increased spending….

The current rate is the equivalent to living on $38.99 a day. The report said a single person who also receives the maximum rent assistance and the energy supplement would be living on about $49.24 a day.

Previous research has shown that those on Newstart live on as little as $17 a day after their housing expenses and bills.

ABC NEWS, 9 September 2018:

It may not have garnered the same attention as the surprisingly strong second-quarter GDP growth, but an equally striking fact in last week's national accounts was household savings had just hit a post-GFC low.

It is not a new phenomenon. The household saving ratio — or the ratio of households' net saving to disposable income — has been shrinking since 2014.
What makes the latest figure uncomfortable is that there is now little fat left to trim, and on current trends households will be spending more they earn.

The ability of the Australian economy to keep growing in the face of a number of challenges in recent years owes a fair bit to the savings so prudently built up after the sobering experience of the GFC.

As JP Morgan's Tom Kennedy points out, the persistent decline in savings since 2014 has been an important part of Australia's real GDP growth performance, helping offset some of the spending drag associated with record low wages growth and an unemployment rate that has yet to fire up wages.

While the correlation between savings and spending is far from perfect, Mr Kennedy has drilled down into the figures, and is worried.

Sad statistics are generated by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison's war on the poor & vulnerable


Liberal MP for Cook Scott John Morrison has been a Cabinet Minister since 18.9.2013, was Minister for Social Services from 23.12.2014 to 21.9.2015, then Treasurer from 21.9.2015 to 26.8.2018 and now Prime Minister of Australia since 24.8.2018 – these are the sad statistics he leaves in his wake.

The Australian, 21 February 2019:

As Department of Human Services secretary Renee Leon faced heated questioning about the controversial “robodebt” program — which averages reported income and generates debts to current and former welfare recipients — she said it is not known whether people have taken their own lives due to the program.

“There is not an elevated death rate among the cohort who have received a debt notice. It’s not to say we are not troubled that people die,” Ms Leon said…

Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said the numbers are particularly troubling because 663 people out of the 2030 had “vulnerability indicators” attached.

Of the 2,030 people who died after receiving a Centrelink Online Compliance Intervention letter (‘robodebt’ ) which was generated sometime between July 2016 to October 2018:

102 were aged 16-25 years;
327 were aged 26-35 years;
347 were aged 36-45 years;
466 were aged 46-55 years;
536 were aged 56-65 years;
251 were aged 66-80 years; and
1 was aged 81-100 years.

By gender 637 of these welfare recipients were Female and 1,393 Male.

“If death rates remained similar throughout the period July 2016 - October 2018 ... approximately 6% of all deaths of 16-35 year olds in Australia occurred for people who were subject to Centrelink #robodebt compliance.” [Dr Ben Eltham on Twitter, 22 February 2019]

BACKGROUND


Gilbert Sullivan QC weiting in the Herald Sun, 21 February 2019:

The Model Litigant Policy of the Commonwealth is a direction issued by the Attorney-General under the Judiciary Act.

The claims reported to have been made by Centrelink are said to target 1.5 million people and aim to claw back $4.6 billion in what are alleged to be overpayments of welfare.

The claims date back to 2010 and Centrelink demands the repayment of what it alleges to be overpayments caused by the understatement of income; but it knows very well that it is unable to prove these claims.

Centrelink has destroyed its records and is entirely dependent on information obtained from the Australian Taxation Office. It divides the gross annual income obtained in this way by 26 to calculate what it terms an “apportioned actual income”.

It then proceeds to claim the difference between the fortnightly income declared by the payee and the apportioned actual income as an understatement by the recipient which it then claims as a debt.

It is only by sighting pay-slips or bank statements that the accuracy of the declared fortnightly income can be verified. Centrelink’s claims rest on it proving that the fortnightly income was falsely declared.

It can only succeed if it can prove this on the balance of probabilities. The ATO information on its own is worthless and needs a point of comparison in the form of contemporaneous records. Annual income does not translate into fortnightly income.
The absurdity of this methodology is obvious.

A full-time student in 2010 on a youth allowance may well have had a part-time job to support their studies. Some weeks they may have earned, say $150, other weeks nothing.

They may have entered the work force full-time in the last two months of the financial year and earned say, $8000.

Dividing the yearly income by 26 cannot establish a dishonest understatement for the weeks the student earned $150 or nothing. Without the contemporary records, no understatement can be proved.

This methodology is in breach of model litigant obligations in a number of respects.

First, the mathematical basis underpinning it is invalid and known to be so by Centrelink; and the maintenance of a claim known to be invalid is a fundamental breach of the obligation to act as a model litigant.

Second, to imagine that casual employees retain pay slips from 2010 is ludicrous; many of the employers from that time no longer exist and it is inconceivable that anyone can produce pay-slips.

Further, while some bank records are obtainable, they are archived and expensive to obtain. Placing the onus on a recipient to procure bank statements is yet a further breach of model litigant obligations.

There is no reason why Centrelink could not obtain these records by subpoena or otherwise. Furthermore, the actions of Centrelink reverse the onus of proof which, of itself, is a breach of model litigant obligations.

MammaMia, 21 February 2019:

“It was demeaning, embarrassing, and if it wasn’t for my son… I considered suicide.”

“It was dehumanising. I had only lost my husband months before… I was grieving.”

These two sentences represent how two women, from two different walks of life, in separate states felt – when they received a Centrelink debt notice.

Or more exactly what happened when they tried to deal with the fallout of a Centrelink debt notice……

The Centrelink letters are sent out through an automated system. In the old system, it equated to about 20,000 a year, but thanks to a new system in 2016 – it’s generating 20,000 letters a week.

Gabriella* received one of those letters just last year.

She received it when she was trying to come to terms with the death of her husband who had died in a boating accident a few months before.

She was left with two young children trying to work out how to move on with life.
She had never received anything from Centrelink, she hadn’t needed to. But Centrelink had sent her $13,000 in weekly increments, and they wanted their money back.

“The stress… I was already dealing with enough… I knew I didn’t owe them money,” she told Mamamia.

Turns out Centrelink had been sending her money that she hadn’t applied for – which had been bouncing back for months.

“I made a phone call first, they realised they’d made a mistake. But she [the person on the phone] couldn’t fix it.”

She was given a different number.

“I spent hours on the telephone waiting for them to answer [to help]. It’s impossible to get through,” explained Gabriella.

So instead, she was forced to take a day off work and go into the Centrelink office itself.

“She looked at me like I was lying,” Gabriella told Mamamia, of the moment she explained her story – yet again.

Gabriella is most frustrated at the time and effort she had to put in to fix this wrong. A wrong that was made by an automated letter, and which cost her a days’ wage, and almost cost her $13,000.

“I am grieving, but I am pretty stable… my head is pretty OK. But there are people who get these letters and they are not OK,” said a teary Gabriella.

“I am actually in the mental health industry, so I am probably more equipped than a lot at noticing triggers in myself. But what if I wasn’t?

“My situation never should have happened, if there had been a human being looking at my account they would have realised it was bouncing back.”


“It was dismay. It was a shock to the system. It is scaremongering, they don’t explain anything, and it’s very… dehumanising,” she said of her experience..........

Monday, 11 February 2019

Morrison & Co off to the Australian High Court to defend the indefensible - Centrelink's robo-debt



The Guardian, 6 February 2019:

Centrelink has now wiped, reduced or written off 70,000 “robo-debts”, new figures show, as the government’s automated welfare compliance system scheme faces a landmark court challenge.

Victoria Legal Aid on Wednesday announced a challenge to the way Centrelink evaluates whether a person owes a welfare debt under the $3.7bn system. It will argue the “crude calculations” created using tax office information are insufficient to assess a person’s earnings and, therefore, are unlawful….

Victoria Legal Aid’s court challenge was also welcomed by the Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie, who said the scheme was a “devastating abuse of government power…..

Alternative Law Journal. Emeritus Professor of Law (Syd Uni) Terry Carney, Robo-debt illegality: The seven veils of failed guarantees of the rule of law?, 17 December 2018:

The government's on-line-compliance (robo-debt) initiative unlawfully and unethically seeks to place an onus on supposed debtors to ‘disprove’ a data-match debt or face the prospects of the amount being placed in the hands of debt collectors. It is unlawful because Centrelink, not the supposed debtor, bears the legal onus of ‘proving’ the existence and size of any debt not accepted by the supposed debtor. And it is unethical because the alleged debts are either very greatly inflated or even non-existent (as found by the Ombudsman), and because the might of government is used to frighten people into paying up – a practice rightly characterised as a form of extortion. How could government, accountability avenues, and civil society have enabled such a state of illegality to go publicly unidentified for almost 18 months and still be unremedied at the date of writing?

This article suggests the answer to that question lies in serious structural deficiencies and oversights in the design and operation of accountability and remedial avenues at seven different levels:

1. In a lack of standards to prevent rushed government design and introduction of machine learning (‘smart’) systems of decision-making;
2. In a lack of diligence by accountability agencies such as the Ombudsman or Audit Office;
3. In a lack of ethical standards of administration or compliance by Centrelink with model litigant protocols;
4. In a lack of transparency of the first of two possible tiers of Administrative Appeals Tribunal review (AAT1), resulting in a lack of protections against gaming of review by way of agency non-acquiescence or strategic non-contestation;
5. In a lack of guarantees of independence and funding security to enable first line Legal Aid or community legal centre/welfare rights bodies (CLC/WRC) to test or call out illegality in the face of thwarting of challenges by Centrelink settling of potential test cases;
6. In a lack of sufficient pro-bono professional or civil society capacity to mount ‘second line’ test case litigation or other systemic advocacy; and
7. In tolerance, especially in some media quarters, of a ‘culture’ of political and public devaluing of the significance of breaches of the rule of law and rights of vulnerable welfare clients.

It is argued that a multifaceted set of initiatives are required if such breaches of legal and ethical standards are to be avoided in the future.

Why is it clear that robo-debt is unlawful?

The pivot for this article is not so much that Centrelink lacks legal authority for raising virtually all debts based on a robo-debt ‘reverse onus’ methodology rather than use its own information gathering powers – for this remains essentially uncontested. Rather it is extraordinary that this went unpublicised and uncorrected for over two years. So first a few words about the illegality as it affects working age payments such as Newstart (NSA) and Youth allowance (YA).

Robo-debt is unlawful because Centrelink is always responsible for ‘establishing’ the existence and size of supposed social security debts. This is because the legislation provides that a debt arises only if another section creates a debt, such as one based on the difference between the amount paid and the amount to which a person is entitled. And because Centrelink bears a ‘practical onus’ to establish this. If Centrelink cannot prove up a debt from its own enquiries or information supplied to it, the status quo (no debt/lawful receipt of payments) applies. This has been the law since 1984 when the full Federal Court decided McDonald. Unless the alleged debtor is one of the rare employees who had only a single job paid at a constant fortnightly pay rate, Centrelink fails to discharge this onus when its robo-debt software generates a debt by apportioning total earnings reported to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) from particular jobs to calculate average earnings. Robo-debt treats fluctuating earnings as if that income was earned evenly at the same rate in each and every fortnight. Mathematically this is wrong because an average for a fluctuating variable never speaks to its constituent parts. And it is the actual income for constituent fortnights that as a matter of law is crucial for calculating the rate of a working age payment such as NSA or YA.

Read the full article here.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Prime Minister Scott Morrion's bullying of single mothers increases


The Guardian, 28 January 2019:

Single mothers placed on a compulsory welfare program for disadvantaged parents allege they were pressured into allowing private job service providers to collect their “sensitive information”.

ParentsNext participants are asked to sign a privacy notification and consent form, which is similar to documentation provided to those on other welfare programs such as the employment scheme Jobactive.

The program is compulsory for those who want to receive parenting payments and are considered “disadvantaged”, but departmental guidelines state that participants may decline to sign the form and still take part.

Instead, some case workers have told participants that they would have their payments cut if they refused to sign the form.

The situation has meant women who did not want to give their consent have done so anyway. One of the five participants who spoke to Guardian Australia about their experience said they felt the situation represented “coercion”.

“She [my case worker] just said, flat out, ‘If you don’t sign it, you won’t get your parenting payment’,” one mother, who did not want to be named, told Guardian Australia. “It was simple as that.”

The women were concerned by the fact the privacy form states that providers “may collect sensitive information … [which] may include … medical information”. It is understood the form would allow providers to handle participants’ mental health information.

Parenting payment is the sole income for many women on the ParentsNext program, which is currently the subject of a Senate inquiry.

While is standard practice for welfare recipients to be asked to sign privacy consent and notification forms, the chairman of the Australian Privacy Foundation, David Vaile, noted that, in this case, the women felt they needed to sign the form in order to keep receiving their payments.

“It has all the characteristics of bad consent,” Vaile said.

Ella Buckland, who has been campaigning against ParentsNext since she was placed on the program, has asked her provider to destroy the consent form she signed last year. She was told she needed to sign the form to take part in the program – and therefore keep her payments.

“I felt humiliated and disempowered that I didn’t have a choice,” Buckland, a former Greens staffer, told Guardian Australia. “[I thought] if I didn’t sign it, I wouldn’t be able to feed my kids.”

The department has told Buckland in writing she may withdraw her consent at any time. Her provider, who did not reply to a request for comment, has been asked by the Department of Jobs and Small Business to respond to her claims.

Terese Edwards, the chief executive of the National Council of Single Mothers and their Children, said many women had legitimate reasons for refusing to sign the form, such as having left a violent relationship.

 “Providing this information reduces their sense of security,” she said. “It could be where the child is getting schooled, which then has the address of the parent. It could also have the name of the child.”

Among the women Guardian Australia has spoken is a mother of a transgender child who did not want to sign the form because she was concerned about the privacy of her daughter.

Eva* is eligible for an exemption from the program because she homeschools her daughter, but was told in a text message she would have to sign the consent form for this to be processed. She was also told she would have to attend a meeting with her provider, about two hours’ drive away, and to provide evidence that her daughter was homeschooled......