Shocked Australian mothers are being slugged by massive bills with only weeks to pay as the government claws back what it claims are overpaid childcare subsidies.

Some say they have been hit by demands for up to $17,000 each that needs to be paid within just eight weeks or face possible legal action to recover the debt.

But parents have slammed the federal government campaign for coming in the middle of the pandemic, with many already struggling to make ends meet.

Others have also questioned the formula for the cash demands which appear in some cases to be based on false income figures, with estimated incomes out by up to $60,000 a year.

Shocked Australian mothers are being slugged by massive bills with only weeks to pay as the government claws back what it claims are overpaid childcare subsidies (stock images)

Shocked Australian mothers are being slugged by massive bills with only weeks to pay as the government claws back what it claims are overpaid childcare subsidies (stock images)

Shocked Australian mothers are being slugged by massive bills with only weeks to pay as the government claws back what it claims are overpaid childcare subsidies (stock images)

With families facing redundancy and reduced hours as a results of the current Covid lockdowns, the unexpected bills are set to wipe out savings. 

One mother Rebecca Coulson, 42, was hit by two final notice bills for a total of $11,000 within a week of each other, dating back to childcare subsidies from 2018.

The first bill for $7,665 arrived last month and needed to be paid by September 22, and the second one for $3,743 arrived two weeks later and must be paid by September 24.

Ms Coulson, from Sydney’s Northern Beaches, lost her job as a sales director in the first lockdown in June last year. She questioned how the figure was calculated as she says the family always used an accountant to file their tax returns. 

Some parents say they have been hit by demands for up to $17,000 that need to be paid within just eight weeks or face possible legal action to recover the debt (stock image)

Some parents say they have been hit by demands for up to $17,000 that need to be paid within just eight weeks or face possible legal action to recover the debt (stock image)

Some parents say they have been hit by demands for up to $17,000 that need to be paid within just eight weeks or face possible legal action to recover the debt (stock image)

‘We have lost pretty much one full income, which was my salary, and then we have been hit with these bills and I don’t know if another one is coming through,’ she told news.com.au.

‘I don’t just have a bank account to find $11,000 in eight weeks. I’m home schooling and there was already financial pressure and that’s one more pressure we don’t need right now.’

The bill is now set to wipe out the family’s dream of adding another child to their family through IVF, with the money set aside for the treatment now likely to be used to pay the bill.

The row comes in the wake of the Centrelink robodebt scandal which saw 443,000 people hit by demands to pay back income support which they said they didn’t owe between 2015 and 2019. 

Parents have slammed the federal government campaign for coming in the middle of the pandemic with many already struggling to make ends meet (stock image)

Parents have slammed the federal government campaign for coming in the middle of the pandemic with many already struggling to make ends meet (stock image)

Parents have slammed the federal government campaign for coming in the middle of the pandemic with many already struggling to make ends meet (stock image)

The federal court later found the robodebt system was flawed and ordered the government to pay back $751 million to claimants and drop its claims for another $1.76 billion of alleged debts. 

At least one suicide was linked to the robodebt demands.

Hundreds of mothers on a Facebook group have now said they too have been hit by repayment demands for childcare subsidies too.

Nadine Kliskey, 41, posted that she had been hit by two demands for a total of $3700 – and was inundated by a flood of other mums who had received similar notices.

The mother of two says she was told by Centrelink they had delayed the demands because of the pandemic, but she questioned the accuracy of the figures and why they sent it during the current lockdown.

Mums have slammed the federal government campaign for coming in the middle of the pandemic with many already struggling to make ends meet (stock image)

Mums have slammed the federal government campaign for coming in the middle of the pandemic with many already struggling to make ends meet (stock image)

Mums have slammed the federal government campaign for coming in the middle of the pandemic with many already struggling to make ends meet (stock image)

‘Looking at the other mums in the groups, it’s a tough time at the moment and other parents are receiving bills for $16,000 to $17,000,’ she said.

‘We already pay much more money than any other country does for childcare – it just seems unfair. 

‘I’m not paying until someone can tell me this is accurate … and I’m going to have to go on a payment plan to pay it back as I’m claiming disaster payment for loss of work, so can’t chuck out $3500.’

Another mum added: ‘I just think it’s absolutely crazy. 

‘To be hit with an invoice for three years ago, which is basically like “I’m sorry you forget to pay this or we accidentally didn’t charge you and you have to pay now” – it wouldn’t stand up in the business world. 

‘It’s not right.’ 

With families facing redundancy and reduced hours as a results of the current Covid lockdowns, the unexpected bills are set to wipe out savings (stock image)

With families facing redundancy and reduced hours as a results of the current Covid lockdowns, the unexpected bills are set to wipe out savings (stock image)

With families facing redundancy and reduced hours as a results of the current Covid lockdowns, the unexpected bills are set to wipe out savings (stock image)

Services Australia says the demands have gone out after families either confirmed incomes higher than originally submitted when the childcare subsidy was awarded, or because they had not confirmed any income figure.

The system automatically checks payments to families at the end of each financial year to see if they have been underpaid, overpaid or correctly paid.

Income tax returns or other income confirmation methods are used to calculate benefits owed and paid, with families given two years to confirm their income.

If there’s no income confirmation within two years though, Services Australia say they send out a debt notice to families. 

 ‘We have recently reached two years since the 2018-19 financial year ended and have sent letters to families who still haven’t confirmed their income,’ said a spokesman.

‘Even though the deadline has passed, it’s not too late for families to take action and for us to reassess their debt.’ 

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