The family of a man who took is own life say he was being hassled by Centrelink over a debt of $17,000 after he had been overpaid by the national welfare agency.
Rhys Cauzzo, 28, committed suicide on Australia Day this year, after experiencing extreme stress at the hands of a debt collection agency handling Centrelink repayments.
The Melbourne-based florist and musician was allegedly overpaid $300 a week for a year by Centrelink who handed the debt over to Dun & Bradstreet - a debt collection agency who began chasing him about repayments, reports news.com.au
While Rhys, who was already struggling to afford treatment for his depression, and his girlfriend, Brit, tried to manage the situation, it became overwhelming to the point where Rhys took his own life.
Rhys’ brother, Josh told news.com.au that his family was ‘failed’ by the government.
‘My little brother didn’t set out to defraud the system, he needed welfare to survive.’
‘They gave him six days to pay up, threatened to garnish his wages, seize assets. I believe that point was what pushed him over the edge. It was the icing on the cake.’
Adding insult to a tragic situation, Centrelink have refused to acknowledge that there is a problem with their debt recovery procedure and the impact it has on people.
Rhys’ mum Jenny, who has also suffered depression, says Centrelink had the power to ease the stress on her boy.
‘I’m not saying it was the whole cause because it wasn’t, but it needs to be said. Those letters should have stopped. These government agencies, you’re just a number.They need to start looking at people as individuals,' she says.
‘He was a very kind soul and touched a lot of people.
‘He was an absolute softie, very artistic, creative, musically inclined, and he absolutely loved animals.’
If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.