There may be a few young innocents or old socialists who believe that people will not game the system of government benefits. And I, cynic that I am, still insist that the majority of folks don’t deliberately abuse the system. But it is also true that any system that can be gamed, will be gamed to some extent, as Australian authorities were reminded recently:
Some public housing tenants have declared they have assets worth hundreds of thousands of dollars while happily enjoying cut-price rent at the expense of more needy recipients.
More than 500 tenants of public housing have admitted rorting the system. Of those, 141 declared combined assets worth more than $11 million while 456 declared extra income worth a combined $10 million a year.
One man had $450,000 cash and 20 others declared land and property ownership.
The state government put tenants on notice last month, giving them until May 31 to dob themselves in for undeclared income and assets.
The amnesty, revealed in The Daily Telegraph in April and which ended last week, has generated more than $2.5 million a year in extra rental income after those who used the amnesty to make declarations of assets and income had their rents lifted accordingly.
Of the worst offenders, more than 1000 tenants declared an average of $26,000 in undeclared income, and nearly 700 declared an average of $60,000 each in assets, family and community services minister Gabrielle Upton said.
“I congratulate the 2300 people who took advantage of the amnesty to declare extra income and assets,” Ms Upton said. “And I thank the 200 people who gave us information about tenants who, they suspected, had not declared income or assets to us.”
The actual qualifying criteria:
Public housing leases are two, five or 10 years. One person earning less than $395 a week is eligible to gain a lease but once that person earns $888 per week, they become ineligible. For a single parent with two kids, eligibility kicks in under $580 a week and ends at $1126 a week and for two parents and two children those figures are $665 and $1364.
The Australian dollar of late has been worth about 93 cents US.