Centrelink backlog causing massive Age Pension delays

Tens of thousands of older Aussies are waiting months to have their Age Pension applications approved, due to a massive backlog at Centrelink, an anonymous source at Services Australia has said.

The delay means many people are having to eat into retirement savings to make ends meet and some are even having to delay important medical appointments while they wait for their health care card application to be processed.

A source at Services Australia, who asked not to be named, told The West Australian the backlog for new Age Pension claims stood at more than 30,000 in late November, with some applications dating back to early June.

“That’s a big number, even by our standards,” the source said.

Once the pension application is granted, the payments will be backdated to the application date, meaning the first payment will be much bigger than usual. But this doesn’t help older people struggling with cash flow now.

It’s also possible to pay the full cost amount for medications and appointments, and then claim the difference between that and the concession amount back through Centrelink once your concession card has been renewed.

But that assumes you have the money to pay the full amount in the first place, which many do not. Instead, people are delaying medical treatments and going without their medication.

The anonymous source cited staff shortages as the driving force behind the application backlog.

What is being done?

Early last month, the federal government announced a $228 million boost to Service Australia’s operating budget, aimed at recruiting an additional 3000 staff to ease the bottleneck.

Services Australia general manager Hank Jongen apologised for the delays and said anyone facing financial hardship should contact Centrelink to get their claim prioritised. That is, if they can get through to speak to anyone.

“The Australian Government is boosting Services Australia staff by 3000 in coming months to help improve the customer experience and already 1000 people have accepted permanent positions,” he said.

“Most of these will be working on processing claims and answering calls.”

Minister for the NDIS and government services Bill Shorten blamed the previous government for letting staff levels at Centrelink get so low.

“More than 3800 frontline staff were ripped out of Services Australia, making the agency’s job to help Australians increasingly difficult,” he said when announcing the funding increase.

“These 3000 new staff are the first step in returning people to frontline Services Australia roles after 10 years of Liberal neglect.

“The new staff will be critical to reducing call wait times, speeding up claim payments and giving Australians back some time in their busy lives.”

Are you waiting on an Age Pension application? When did you first lodge it? Let us know in the comments section below.

Also read: ‘Glitch’ blamed for incorrect Age Pension payments

Written by Brad Lockyer

Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.


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  1. Labor is supposed to be “the government for the people”. I have yet to see very much that has actually helped the people since they gained government. Poor Centrelink and other government services getting worse, power prices way through the stratosphere, and so many other things that I am sure other people could add to on here.
    As mentioned in the article, “Minister for the NDIS and government services Bill Shorten blamed the previous government for letting staff levels at Centrelink get so low”. Well if that was the case, he has had 18 months to rectify it, and is only just now looking at recruiting new staff, give us a break.
    Also, for people trying to get onto the pension, and constantly trying to either speak to a Centrelink representative or even get an appointment, well the best of British luck with success at that. So, as they suggest, try online, well that may work for those who have had a simple working life, with no business connections, or heaven forbid, a self managed super fund, because if you do come under that category then Centrelink set up such a minefield with their online application, that very few if any can cross the minefield, and even when you think you are close, it tells you to upload information, but its site wont accept those uploads. They don’t only need more staff, they also need a new broom to go right through the place.

  2. “Once the pension application is granted, the payments will be backdated to the application date, meaning the first payment will be much bigger than usual.”

    Is that a recent change? Because that is not the case normally, use to be years ago but was stopped.

    • That is still the case Greg. Hasn’t changed. It will not be back-dated to your retirement date though if you had not applied for a pension prior to retiring. The pension is paid, effective on your retirement date, if you applied before retiring. If you wait until after retiring, it will only be backdated to the date you applied for the pension.

  3. I logged my sister-in-laws application for the pension back in early November, and have had to jump through several hoops that we shouldn’t even be seeing on the “merry go round!” I – as my sister-in-law’s EPOA – was surprised that Centrelink won’t accept Qld EPOA documents! THEY HAVE THEIR OWN – and will only speak to the applicant unless they either can’t speak, can’t hear or are dead! Having no ability to understand the questions the Centrelink person asked has no influence – “She must answer for herself!”

    This is a 75 yr old who hides her bills so she doesn’t have to pay them!!

    They demanded 2022 – 2023 ATO tax returns for family and business trusts that were closed in 2005.

    They demanded tax returns and profit and loss accounts for a 10% family unit that has not made a profit in 40 years as there are always family renting it.

    I do want to thank the two young ladies at Capalaba, Brisbane last week, who were amazing! They found that both ATO questions were “vetted” – which means that Centrrelink staff should not even be asking about them!

  4. Why is it that the first thing these stupid politicians do is blame the previous govt rather than getting their hands and boots dirty. They don’t really care as their “pension” is not affected.
    maybe make them go through Centrelink to receive any govt dollars after they retire – unless they have “drowned in the trough”.

  5. I am afraid the Government is too interested in pushing ,and spending hundreds of millions, on issues like the voice ,rather than knuckling down and doing the hard work in helping those who need a hand up ,not a hand out.
    They are captured by woke Agendas and have yet to realise how much they are on the nose here in WA.
    I was very dissapointed to see Agedcare Minister wells piling on to criticise Peter Dutton in that dispicable way.
    I had great hopes that she might lead the Agedcare sector but no more.
    My decision for a pension, because our assetts have decreased , is due tomorrow ,according to the Centrelink schedule.
    I shall keep you posted.

  6. We have too much technology and we are worse than before, the service is extremely poor, they do not read messages sent via the web, it takes months if you are lucky for them to rectify their errors and mistakes, we do not insist due to retaliations or abuse, my wife and I we have our pensions but, my sister in law she doesn´t get hers because they change the year for the pension age when she just reached it. They did that intentionally because they can gain time lost in processed pensions.

  7. Is the delay because centre link staff have started working A FOUR DAY WEEK!!!
    Or because they work from home and at a slower pace as they are not being monitored…
    You have to ask ‘WHY’ all of a sudden this delay is so great,
    Like every business from banks, airlines, most government departments, retail shops there is no such thing as service any more!

  8. Generally the staff are good to deal with the delay is not their fault. The most annoying and delaying thing is the application is not complete until all documents are provided including the records for an old trust.
    The other issue is that income earnt by an eligible partner who has applied but not yet been approved still significantly reduces the amount paid to the partner already receiving the pension. The income earnt by the partner has to be reported fortnightly and is not counted under work bank.

  9. I have been waiting 9 months. I was on the phone for an hour and a half on hold and had to hang up last week – I tried throughout the day and voicemail said to call back as lines were too busy – finally got someone around 3 after a 90 minute wait then on hold for 40 minutes when they needed to seek advice – noted they made a mistake and thought I was still overseas – Staff were nice but obviously new – they said they would mark urgent and I received a message yesterday that a Centrelink person would call me that day. They didn’t. I noted I was living on savings that were decreasing – so hopefully it will be sorted soon.

    • How did u go, my dad has been waiting from early July and still nothing. On his centrelink account in profile it says under temporary address that its overseas when he did not say that and its in red saying ‘update required’ but you can not update it manually it doesnt let you.

  10. I deal with Centrelink professionally on behalf of clients and they have never been this bad. It all went to hell about 5 months ago and now, waiting times for claims haven’t just blown out by 20 or 30%, they are out by 200-300%. It can take 8-9 weeks to get a simple health card processed and 6 months for a straightforward age claim. Despite Shorten’s continual sniping at the Liberals, he’s had this for 18 months now. Everything went downhill fast when he decided he wanted everything handled in house and terminated the contracts for external companies therefore losing hundreds of staff which have not yet been replaced.

    Sometimes it can take two days to get a successful call into the agency and then you just hope you get one of the experienced operators, so you have half a chance of getting your activity done. Most of the financial information we provided with the claims has aged out so we have to re-supply. If a claim has to go to a Complex Assessment Officer this massively delays things further.

    I have worked in that environment so I’m very tolerant of what the Service Officers are facing, however, this is getting beyond a joke and there is no sign of it getting any better anytime soon.

  11. I would like to know if the people who have applied for the pension earlier in the year that have commented on this page, have received their pensions as yet. There is no updates. I applied in September. Last communication from them was 29 October saying they were processing it. Nothing since. I know a lot of people have been waiting a long time.

    • I’ve done my dads back in July and still nothing. Called few times as i can act on his behalf, waited over an hour on the phone each time just for them to say it still under processing and they cant do anything than wait.

  12. Applied October the 10th2023 now 6th Feb 2024 and nothing as yet
    Have now started another job so expect to still get back paid to 10th October up until my first pay in new job on January the 18th , is that correct to assume ??

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