Can Centrelink wait times be fixed?

In a bid to reduce painfully long Centrelink call wait times and improve the delivery of services, the Government plans to add 250 new call centre operators and pour more money into its digital channels.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge announced that the additional 250 operators will guarantee the services on which Australians rely.

The new operators will answer phone enquiries solely about Centrelink payments and services, and not calls regarding Medicare or Child Support.

They will focus on answering less complex calls, such as reporting requirements, helpdesk enquiries and queries about online services.

Earlier this year, analysis from The Conversation revealed that, in 2015–16, 68,433,091 Centrelink calls were attempted, of which 28,911, 410 were blocked and 39,441,581 went through, although 7,122,978 of these calls were abandoned before the issue was totally resolved. Less than half of the calls made to Centrelink were actually ‘handled’. The study showed that, while the average call wait time was 15 minutes and 9 seconds, the average wait time was brought down by lines with significantly less demand.

The Government hopes that the additional operators will help to bring this wait time down, but it also claims it is working to reduce the need for people to call in the first place, with significant investments to upgrade its digital channels.

Around 130 million Centrelink transactions are now conducted online and, by pouring $1 billion into its Welfare Payment System (WPIT), the Government hopes to reduce the need for human oversight even further.

It may do so at its peril, with evidence that it’s robo-debt recovery scheme has failed Centrelink welfare recipients, many of whom have received incorrect debt notices generated by automated systems that had little or no human oversight to correct the errors.

Still, it is commendable that the Government is trying to deliver improved access and services. Hopefully these additional call centre operators will mean that recipients will, at the very least, have their calls answered.


Is the addition of 250 call centre operators enough to restore your faith in Centrelink customer service?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Publisher of YourLifeChoices – Australia's most-trusted and longest-running retirement website. A trusted voice on Australia's retirement landscape, including retirement income and planning, government entitlements, lifestyle and news and information relevant to Australians over 50. Leon has worked in publishing for more than 25 years and is also a travel writer and editor, graphic designer and photographer.

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