Goodness knows why!

Families not claiming thousands in childcare rebate:

“Child Care Minister Kate Ellis says parents often do not know they are eligible for the rebate.”

Or, perhaps they know, and thought they’d applied, and just haven’t gotten around to chasing up yet another damn thing…

Or! I have some suggestions about what might have happened!

Perhaps they went to Centrelink’s site on the childcare rebate and found instructions to apply. Oh wait, no they didn’t. They found information about eligibility and payment rates, but not instructions. It almost sounds like it might happen automatically…

But just in case they went to their online Centrelink account, and it said that their identity has not been sufficiently verified to apply for childcare rebate. And they recall what their current level of identitiy verification involved. Consider this interaction (where “Mary” is a randomly chosen name for a Centrelink childcare benefit* recipient, of course):

Customer service officer: “How many shares do you own in $company?”
Mary: “The correct answer is zero. But I am guessing you want the answer I last gave you in 2001.”
CSO: “Yes, the one in 2001.”
Mary: “Well, I don’t know, because I have not kept records of how many shares I owned in $company in 2001.”
CSO: “OK, I see the problem! That was quite a while ago. All right. If you can just tell me how much rent you pay…”
Mart: “The correct answer is zero. But I am guessing you want the answer I gave you in 2003?”
CSO: “Yes please. If you can!”

That is, I received Youth Allowance as a student from Centrelink, and their entire identification procedure assumes that either I kept details records of my exact financial state at the time, or that it hasn’t changed. (Rents haven’t gone up in eight years, surely?) So, the system is designed to not give a benefit to anyone who ever received a benefit in the past, because interacting with them is just such a pain the second time. Which is not a surprise, since they administer unemployment benefits.

Not that new customers have it easy. A story I heard was someone’s genuine physical address tripping up a rather poorly written “no post office boxes” validator, and who therefore couldn’t meet the requirement of providing a residential address.

* Childcare benefit is not the same as childcare rebate. DUH. And there’s no way that’s confusing people into believing they have received all their entitlements.