United Kingdom

Jennifer Miller's son killed himself after he received a Centrelink debt of $28,00

A mother whose son killed himself after he was wrongly billed $28,000 by Centrelink as part of the calamitous robodebt scheme has described the government's move to refund unlawful debts as a 'bittersweet'.

Rhys Cauzzo, 28, took his own life on Australia Day in 2017 after receiving two separate debts as a result of the welfare agency's controversial automated collection scheme - one for $10,000 and another for $18,000.

The part-time florist's mother Jennifer Miller and his girlfriend tried to help him answer the letters and make phone calls, and visit a Centrelink office to resolve the issues.

But the Melbourne man, who suffered from depression and anxiety before he fell victim to the scheme, succumbed to financial pressures after he was hounded for months by debt collectors.

Following Government Services Minister Stuart Robert's admission on Friday that the disastrous scheme was unlawful - two years after her son's death - Ms Miller told 9 News she glad to see officials take responsibility. 

Rhys  Cauzzo is pictured with his mother Jennifer Miller before his death on Australia Day 2017

'It was bittersweet. I did feel some vindication that they are doing this, finally,' she told the network.

But missing from Mr Robert's speech was an apology to the 370,000 victims of the scheme who were given debts raised by inaccurate averaging systems determined by comparing welfare payments and tax office data.

Ms Miller said the omission of an apology wasn't surprising, but that it was a necessary step in acknowledging the 2,030 people who died after receiving a robo-debt notice.

'They need to apologise. Not just for the likes of myself - and obviously many more families in that situation - but for people that have had to put their life on hold to try and scrape back thousands of dollars,' she said.

'It wasn't right and they knew that in the beginning.'

While Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government 'has great regrets about any pain or injury that has been caused', he is also yet to deliver an apology.

Mr Cauzzo received two separate debts as a result of the welfare agency's controversial automated collection scheme - one for $10,000 and another for $18,000

Before his suicide, Mr Cauzzo drew pictures in his notebook of a stick man holding a gun to his head and dollar bills coming out of his body like blood.  

His older brother Josh said the government failed his sibling and called Centrelink's claim that he had been overpaid by $300 a week 'absurd'.

The 36-year-old mechanic, who lives in Sydney, said he didn't see much of his brother in the last year of his life because of his anxiety about travel.

He also said that his brother didn't open up too much about his problems.

'I don't think he wanted to fully tell me, he was embarrassed,' Josh told the publication.

He added that the 'aggressive' debt collectors had given his brother just six days to pay the bill, threatened to garnish his wages and seize his assets - and 'pushed him over the edge.'

More than $720 million raised through the program will be refunded from July, including payment and recovery fees and any interest earned

'My little brother didn't brother didn't set out to defraud the system, he needed welfare to survive,' he added.

It comes as the government faces a class action lawsuit by Gordon Legal which is arguing for compensation to be paid to the victims.

Attorney-General Christian Porter said the government cannot apologise due to 'ongoing litigation' as a result of the class action. 

More than $720 million raised through the program will be refunded from July, including payment and recovery fees and any interest earned.  

Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. 

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