Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Minister for Government Services

Media release: Child Support and welfare debt - Pay what you owe or you risk being stopped from travelling overseas

24 October 2019

The Hon Stuart Robert MP

Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
Minister for Government Services

New figures released today confirm the use of Departure Prohibition Orders (DPO) is delivering positive outcomes right across the board. A DPO prevents an individual leaving Australia if they are deliberately avoiding paying a debt—either owed via a child support obligation or a welfare debt.

At 30 June 2019, there were over 4,600 DPOs in place to recover more than $172 million of child support debt. So far this year, more than 850 new DPOs have been issued, with a value of more than $20.5 million.

Over 86,000 social welfare debtors, with over 100,800 debts, could be considered for a DPO if they tried to travel overseas. The combined value of these debts is $1.13 billion. Between 1 January 2018 and 30 September 2019, the Department of Human Services sought to contact 2,168 individuals with social welfare debts totalling $54.8 million regarding a DPO. As a result, 673 individuals with social welfare debts totalling $13.69 million have agreed to commence repaying their debt. Currently the department has issued 138 DPOs to 114 people.

Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert said DPOs are at the most serious end of the Government’s integrity measures and used as a last resort.

‘A key priority of the Morrison Government is to ensure the protection of children, which is why we have strong detection and enforcement measures to ensure people pay the child support they owe.

‘The message for parents who refuse to pay child support is simple­—pay what you owe, or you risk being stopped from travelling overseas,’ Minister Robert said.

‘The Morrison Government places great emphasis on protecting the integrity of taxpayer money through strong safeguards of the Centrelink and Medicare programs including through tackling fraud, misreporting of circumstances and if need be blocking the travel of an individual who hasn’t paid back their debt.

‘Following the proven effectiveness of DPOs in recovering owed child support, our Government has extended the use of DPOs to welfare debtors. This aligns government’s powers of debt recovery across child support, tax and social welfare debts.’

 

 

Attachment - Case Studies

Welfare Departure Prohibition Order Case Studies

Case Study 1

A former customer incurred a debt of approximately $45,000 due to significantly under-declaring income and assets.

The customer received advice of the consequences for failure to pay the debt, which included multiple warnings that the department may take additional action such as a Departure Prohibition Order (DPO).

As the customer had failed to negotiate a satisfactory payment arrangement, the department imposed a DPO in May 2018. The placement of the DPO successfully incentivised the customer to negotiate a satisfactory payment arrangement.

A Departure Authorisation Certificate (DAC) was subsequently issued to enable the customer’s departure, as the customer continues to honour their payment arrangement. 

 

Case Study 2

A former customer had incurred a debt of approximately $20,000 due to information obtained from the Australian Tax Office (ATO) identifying a higher verified income amount than the amount declared by the customer.

A DPO case manager contacted the customer to discuss the debt and advised them of the consequences if they failed to enter into a payment arrangement to pay the debt. The consequences included that the department may take additional action such as a Departure Prohibition Order (DPO).

The customer reengaged with the DPO case manager and advised that they would be travelling shortly and offered to make a payment in full.

 

Child Support Departure Prohibition Order Case Studies

Case Study 1 - Collection Outcome

A paying parent with an active child support case had an outstanding child support debt of approximately $15,000.

The department contacted the paying parent and they advised of their intent to travel overseas. The paying parent refused to pay the child support debt or enter into a satisfactory payment arrangement. The paying parent was advised of the department’s intention to place a Departure Prohibition Order (DPO).

After failing to negotiate satisfactory arrangement to address the debt with the paying parent, a DPO was approved and put in place.

The DPO activated at an Australian airport within two days of its placement.

The paying parent contacted the department. Following negotiations, they advised they could pay a lump sum to address the child support debt in full.

After confirmation the payment had been made, the DPO was revoked and the parent was allowed to leave the country.

 

Case Study 2 – Lump sum payment

A paying parent with an active child support case had an outstanding child support debt of approximately $40,000.

Data matching arrangements between the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Human Services identified the paying parent had a pattern of travelling overseas.

After exhausting all contact and alternative collection options, a DPO was approved and put in place.

When the department contacted the paying parent, they voluntarily entered into a satisfactory payment arrangement. However, the paying parent failed to meet the agreed payments. 

Several months later, the paying parent contacted the department and advised they were intending to travel overseas for a holiday. The paying parent advised they were unable to pay the child support debt or enter into a satisfactory payment arrangement. The department considered the paying parent’s request to allow them to travel overseas. The department made the decision to refuse their request for a Departure Authorisation Certificate (DAC).

The following day the paying parent called and advised they had been successful in obtaining funds to pay the debt in full. After confirmation the payment had been made, the DPO was revoked and the parent was allowed to leave the country.

 

Case study 3 —effective compliance and debt repayment negotiation

A paying parent with an active child support case had an outstanding child support debt of approximately $20,000.

Data matching arrangements between the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Human Services identified the paying parent had a pattern of travelling overseas.

After exhausting all contact and alternative collection options, a DPO was approved and put in place.

The department made successful contact with the paying parent after the DPO was placed. The paying parent confirmed they had an offer of employment that required them to travel overseas. The paying parent stated they could not afford to pay the debt in full. The paying parent agreed to lodge their outstanding income tax returns, pay a lump sum of $10,000 and pay a regular monthly amount towards the child support arrears.

After the paying parent met their commitment to lodge income tax return and pay the $10,000, the department provided a DAC. This allowed the paying parent to travel and undertake their employment.

The paying parent adhered to their payment arrangement and addressed their child support debt in full. Upon the debt being cleared, the department revoked the DPO.

 

Case Study 4 – Payment in full following DPO activation

A paying parent with an active child support case had an outstanding child support debt of approximately $40,000.

Data matching arrangements between the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Human Services identified the paying parent had a pattern of travelling overseas.

After exhausting all contact and alternative collection options, a Departure Prohibition Order (DPO) was approved and put in place.

The DPO activated at an Australian airport within one month of its placement.

On contacting the department, the paying parent advised they needed to travel for potential employment. The paying parent accepted they were liable for the child support debt and made a lump sum payment which addressed the child support debt in full.

The DPO was revoked and the parent was allowed to leave the country.

Page last updated: 24 October 2019