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Centrelink delays leave recipients unable to pay for rent or food

Problems with Centrelink payments caused “extremely stressful” delays for some of Australia’s most disadvantaged groups this week, while newly released figures show complaints about the agency jumped by more than 50,000 in the last financial year alone.

The delays to scheduled payments on Monday appear to have affected Newstart recipients. One welfare recipient told Guardian Australia the delay left him with $2 to his name and unable to afford food. He said he was saved only by the generosity of a friend who bought his groceries.

“I wasn’t sure when it was going to get resolved, [or] if it was even going to get resolved,” the Newstart recipient said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “I didn’t know how I was going to pay rent, or for food.”

The Department of Human Services confirmed short delays in the making of payments but did not answer questions on how many people or what payment types were affected.

The department issued a brief statement saying that it had worked with the Reserve Bank of Australia to ensure the “timely release of a small number of payments which were slightly delayed on Monday”.

“All financial institutions processed payments yesterday apart from one, which finalised payments this morning,” department spokesman Hank Jongen said. “The department has well established arrangements with financial institutions to conduct processing when payment files delivered via the Reserve Bank occur on the same day they are due to be made.”

Confused welfare recipients voiced their anger on social media or visited local Centrelink offices.

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