Centrelink too busy to answer 42 million calls

In the past 10 months, 42 million calls to Centrelink received an engaged signal.

Centrelink too busy to answer 42 million calls

According to evidence presented to a Senate estimates hearing, over the past 10 months, more than 42 million calls to Centrelink received an engaged signal.

The number of calls to Centrelink receiving an engaged signal has skyrocketed from 29 million last year and 22 million the year before.

"This is an astronomical number representing Australians trying to access supports, adjust their payments, seek information or update their earnings," said Greens Senator Rachel Siewert.

Call wait times for essential Centrelink services average anywhere from 8 minutes to 38 minutes, with calls for age pensioners averaging between 18 minutes and 28 minutes.

The Government intends to contract 250 additional call centre staff to help lower the high number of calls that fail to reach an operator.

However, Labor Senator Murray Watt pointed out that “Employing those 250 people, we work out, would require [them] to take 460 calls each day, every day of the year just to answer those missed calls."

Twitter user, Dan Buzzard, shared a screenshot on 4 January 2017 showing that it took 378 attempts over a few hours before his call was answered, with a further 90-minute wait before he spoke to a human operator.

Only time will tell if the additional 250 call centre staff will be enough to ease the strain on Centrelink phone lines.

For those trying to report a change in income, it would be ironic to be hit with a robo-debt notice if they couldn’t get through by phone.

What do you think? Is the Government doing enough to respect Centrelink clients’ time? What do you believe is a fair wait time for a call to Centrelink? Would you prefer to go to a Centrelink office rather than attempt to reach them by phone?

Read more at abc.net.au
Read more at huffingtonpost.com.au

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    COMMENTS

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    Rickrick
    5th Jun 2017
    10:14am
    How do I get one of these jobs seeing as as I'm 60 not one application I have sent out in years has received so much as a response let alone an interview yes I'm totally qualified

    If I could get a job I could ditch Centrelink payments

    What a joke
    KSS
    5th Jun 2017
    12:16pm
    Perhaps you could send your application directly to Mr Trudge:

    The Hon Alan Tudge MP
    Minister for Human Services
    Parliament House
    CANBERRA ACT 2600

    or perhaps online:

    https://contact.mhs.gov.au/custsite_feedback/sims/ministersContactPage.jsf?wec-appid=sims&wec-locale=en
    trired
    5th Jun 2017
    10:45am
    still waiting for 2 letters to be answered after 6 months!!!!
    niemakawa
    5th Jun 2017
    2:00pm
    About the waiting times?
    MICK
    5th Jun 2017
    3:25pm
    Probably about a refusal to answer.
    thommo
    5th Jun 2017
    10:57am
    This call fail was a deliberate ploy by Centrelink (at the whim of the minister).
    PlanB
    5th Jun 2017
    11:01am
    Put on more people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Didn't Turnbull say and keep saying -- JOBS AND GROWTH --

    Bloody disgrace when those that are desperate can not even get onto Centrelink -- lets face it no one rings Centrelink for a *&^%$^& friendly CHAT!
    MICK
    5th Jun 2017
    3:27pm
    Correct. But more likely jobs for the third world. The only jobs being created in Australia is every full time job which is destroyed and then resurfaces as 2 part time jobs. A con..........from a government where lying has been a way of life since it was in opposition.
    BigDub
    5th Jun 2017
    11:06am
    I gave up phoning years ago and send information by fax. No wasted time and a handy record of transmission if ever I am asked to validate my advice
    AutumnOz
    5th Jun 2017
    4:42pm
    Excellent idea BigDub, thanks for the tip, I'll try it next time I need to contact them.
    Foxy
    5th Jun 2017
    6:05pm
    lol - Fax??? Fax?????? You serious? (or having a "lend") Just asking.... :-)
    Triss
    5th Jun 2017
    10:05pm
    Damn, I ditched my fax machine a long time ago.
    Ted Wards
    5th Jun 2017
    11:07am
    Never heard of a thing called the internet? Why can't most of this be submitted on line? Bingo there goes the need for unanswered calls.
    PlanB
    5th Jun 2017
    11:20am
    Ted there are quite a lot of people that do not have the internet -- and are far too late in life to ever be -- same as Medicare -- none of those offices around now either.

    Also sometimes we need answers STRAIGHT AWAY not 2 weeks down the line like you may get if you do it on line!
    ourjeffie
    5th Jun 2017
    11:24am
    A lot of stuff can be done online, but the system is not perfect
    John1945
    5th Jun 2017
    11:29am
    I didn't even bother to try phoning. I tried the internet but they just send you around in circles without ever answering specific questions or giving you a chance to explain the problem. Try to report a change in income online as well but that didn't work. The only effective way is to go to one of their offices and be prepared to wait all day.
    leek
    5th Jun 2017
    11:43am
    Not everything can be done online. if I go overseas without my daughter who I can for which I am allowed to do as it is respite. But when I key my dates in because I am not taking my daughter, the system tells me to contact Centrelink. So I try for days to get through on the phone. I generally give up and go and sit and wait at the office. Just to tell them I am goning away for a week or so. Crazy. So no you can not do everything online.
    niemakawa
    5th Jun 2017
    1:25pm
    Centrelink promote the on-line services with gusto. However updating assets and liabilities can be difficult. Once I received a message after updating an item that it will be assessed and no further updates can be made on-line until the assessment is completed.
    Rosret
    5th Jun 2017
    2:12pm
    Oh Ted - seriously. My son is a computer expert and he said the site is woeful. He still had to phone to fix the continual erroneous letters he was receiving in the mail.
    It took hours each time and the issue was only fixed when his estranged wife rang Centrelink and fixed it for him. Thank heaven she had a generous nature - more so than the Centrelink staff who didn't know how to fix the software flaw.
    In Centrelink's favour when he wrote a of complaint about the site someone did ring him back and ask how the site could be improved! So there is a start.
    MICK
    5th Jun 2017
    3:30pm
    Are online replies via India or Australia?
    Ella
    5th Jun 2017
    3:40pm
    My adult son who is on a hospital waiting list for spinal sugery (2.5 years now) had his payments cut without warning before xmas. He can't always afford the internet or phone credit as rent and food comes first. He lives in the country so the nearest office is at least an hour away and his pain levels are such that this is often insurmountable. When he does get through he's shunted around and noone can seem to fix the problem. He's been trying for months to get someone to sort his payment problems out despite sending doctors and specialist letters whenever requested. Most times he cant get through and the internet account is useless .
    Him and his partner live under the breadline from week to week with 2 young children.
    They dont want anything more than what is fair and would be happy just to talk to someone who had an inkling on how to get his payments sorted.
    Play Fairly
    5th Jun 2017
    5:59pm
    I am worried about elderly people, particularly my parents generation, some in their late 80's and mid 90's. These people have VERY little ability to be able to play the "Centrelink run-around" game and keep visiting Centrelink offices because they cannot contact them by phone.. They don't need to be constantly stressed each time Centrelink changes the goalposts/rules.
    I hope Messrs. Morrison, Tudge, Porter and Jongen are held to task for the way in which they have failed to properly consider all elderly people in the system. Obviously the Government and Centrelink officials mentioned above have little imagination or understanding of the sheer frustration EVERYONE has experienced with Centrelink. In my opinion the whole government has very little respect for elderly people, particularly those who are ailing following a lifetime of hard work.
    GET RID OF THE FALLACY THAT EVERYBODY HAS THE PHYSICAL ABILITY TO WORK UNTIL THE AGE OF 70. Stop increasing the Aged Pension eligibility age by 6months each year. Many 60 year olds did not have superannuation back when they started work.
    Perhaps all politicians could wait until the age of 70 to collect their Parliamentary Pensions. I am sick of the lot of them. Greedy people who can't do a proper job.
    Triss
    5th Jun 2017
    10:13pm
    Play Fairly. Didn't Pauline Hanson say she'd trim the fat off politicians and up the pension so OAPs could actually live on it?
    Jennome
    5th Jun 2017
    11:32am
    I think it's the App that can automatically re-dial at every engaged signal which is clogging the system up. All those re-dials are taking up precious lines, leaving no space for those actually hanging on each time they dial. If they could get rid of the App that allows this, I think things would be a whole lot better.
    Rae
    5th Jun 2017
    1:07pm
    That is a good thought and may account for 42 million calls unanswered.
    Cat
    5th Jun 2017
    6:16pm
    This is what Kathryn Cambpell is claiming - without a single bit of proof that anyone is actually using this app. She has not undertaken any legitimate research to be able to legitimately even suggest that an app is to blame. She is just feeding everyone excuses, and people are gobbling it up.
    Pamiea
    5th Jun 2017
    11:36am
    I prefer to go into an office and wait there rather than on the phone but do take something to amuse yourself for the possible 30-45min wait!!
    PlanB
    5th Jun 2017
    11:38am
    Plus a chair ---
    Veritas
    5th Jun 2017
    12:10pm
    Totally agree Pamiea and PlanB. I use a walker and it has a seat, so I'm OK. But the phone GRRRRR, I once had a battery run down waiting for the human behind the 'your call is important' crap. Talk about incompetent.
    Blossom
    13th Jun 2017
    11:42am
    Pamiea, you are lucky you weren't directed to a computer to do what was needed. A couple of our Centrelink Offices in SA have financial advisers there occasionally. If then send a report internally you get a reasonably quick answer from Canberra. Yes, I have hung on for 35 min., sometimes longer then the phone go to the engaged signal on a few occasions. I couldn't afford to do that again. Many Pensioners have been given mobile phones by relatives (possibly they have updated theirs) and the Pensioners cancelled their landlines as they weren't used to make calls much anyway. Either way there is no way they can afford to be making long calls. Some don't have the physical on mental capacity to use a computer.
    Troubadour
    5th Jun 2017
    11:56am
    Yes we always prefer to go into the Centre Link office - rather than sit on the phone for ages and still get nowhere.
    Not a Bludger
    5th Jun 2017
    12:14pm
    Simple - just make the thousands employed by Centrelink work a bit harder and for 40 hours per week.
    Veritas
    5th Jun 2017
    12:20pm
    Is this the 21st Century?????
    MICK
    5th Jun 2017
    3:31pm
    Called Budget Repair? Employ nobody, claim Jobs & Growth and then send to the third world. Welcome to coalition politics and dishonesty!
    niemakawa
    5th Jun 2017
    3:33pm
    @MICK, unfortuantley Australia is fast becoming part of the "third world". What went wrong??
    MICK
    5th Jun 2017
    3:42pm
    Not an easy question to answer niemakawa.
    Take your pick.....too many people not producing anything and not contributing to our society, business and the wealthy (including multinationals) not paying their applicable rates of tax or avoiding tax altogether with their fraudulent offshore tax avoidance shelters, politicians wanting giving the rich at the top tax cuts whilst taxing the bottom & middle class more again. Last of all the deficits we now have and a government spending like a drunk sailor on shore leave.

    What is wrong? Plenty. And it ain't being fixed.
    niemakawa
    5th Jun 2017
    3:49pm
    @MICK. There is a definite lack of political will to fix the things that you mention. I have no confidence in this Government or Labor to do what is necessary to fix anything.
    MICK
    5th Jun 2017
    4:04pm
    Totally agree. From the pollies point of view you don't alienate voters who can send you out of office. That is why Bill Shorten is courting the Islamic vote and Tanya Plibersek is courting the homosexual vote. The irony is that poor Bill the dill may well be alienating the majority and in the end lose more than the votes from the militant margins he gains. He might need a maths lesson....and maybe a better campaign manager.
    Whilst I would always recommend backing neither side of politics I would still prefer to see a party elected who governs for the good of the nation. The current one is not even in the game as it conducts its blatant class warfare and is so badly conflicted that it needs to be removed immediately before it does more damage than it already has done and manages to do what no other government has ever done - split the nation.
    GeorgeM
    5th Jun 2017
    12:22pm
    The situation shows complete contempt for the Centrelink "customers". If it was private company, the heads at the top would have been rolled for allowing this situation to build up. But, then again, the political bosses above those heads must have let this happen!

    Wait times should never be more than 10-15min, preferably most calls answered within 5 min - if this is an organisation with serious commitment to customer service.
    Beeman
    5th Jun 2017
    12:56pm
    I wonder whether it would cost any more to pay everybody over an agreed age the full age pension. Those who lose their jobs could then be placed into the other sections or found work that will increase productivity
    AutumnOz
    5th Jun 2017
    4:57pm
    It would probably cost a lot less to pay a full pension to all over the age of 65 years,as then everyone with some income earning assets would be paying some tax back to the government. It would also cost less than the current mess called a pension.
    Apparently that solution is too simple for our current politicians to cope with :-)
    niemakawa
    5th Jun 2017
    5:01pm
    I agree AutumnOz.
    Triss
    6th Jun 2017
    8:39am
    You're right, AutumnOz, I've often wondered how many administrative folk it takes to work out whether someone has received 10c over what they should have or worked and been paid for 10 minutes over what they should have.
    Romeital
    5th Jun 2017
    1:02pm
    Centrelink needs a complete overhaul
    Theres no reason why it shouldnt be privatised
    Then those lazy employees that pull down those staff who are dedicated to there job of which whom are the majority would be weeded out
    Government departments rarely have management of any substance to deal with incompetant employees
    Rosret
    5th Jun 2017
    2:05pm
    I think you will find Centrelink staff are trained to be difficult and evasive. However their current situation is due to staff cut backs and a flawed software system with a reported 10% error rate - it is not the employees fault.
    MICK
    5th Jun 2017
    3:33pm
    If politicians had trouble getting through they would fix it. The general public has no such consideration and we can wait....or go away, which many do. Problem solved.
    AutumnOz
    5th Jun 2017
    5:01pm
    I do not agree Centrelink should be privatized as too many companies are already run by overseas interests and pay little, or no, tax in Australia.
    The other problem with that is all our private details would be available to whomever took over Centrelink and we would have no idea who had access to them.
    It is a dangerous solution.
    ex PS
    7th Jun 2017
    4:22pm
    You can't blame the employees if they are understaffed and have inadequate resources. This department is one that had staff removed in order to cut costs, the result proves that those jobs that were cut were actually needed.
    I can not think of one example where the public has been made better off because of privatization. All that happens is the service gets even worse and the government doesn't have to except any responsibility.
    Romeital, do you really think the staff in this department sit around all day yacking and drinking tea, if so what are their bosses doing while this is going on? How many years did you work for government that you think that this could happen.
    justme
    5th Jun 2017
    1:20pm
    Msg for Leek, and anyone interested

    Hi Leek, when I have routine stuff to advise Centrelink I write a letter with all info, inc all my contact details, ref #'s etc, then politely give it to the Centrelink office entry receptionist, explain what it is and thank them for accepting it, then leave. Done it for years. Only questioned occasionally but I assure them that I have been doing it for years and I'm not about to waste anyone's time. Same result if posted.
    niemakawa
    5th Jun 2017
    1:27pm
    Centrelink used to ,and maybe they still do, offer a call-back service.
    KSS
    5th Jun 2017
    1:50pm
    If you can get through to it apparently!
    Rosret
    5th Jun 2017
    1:59pm
    What a great way to save money. Offer welfare then make sure no one has access to it. Its just like all the other businesses that have a "contact us" button which goes absolutely nowhere.
    I am afraid it is really a case of having to go to the office and wait your turn. Remembering not everyone who is receiving Centrelink payments is unemployed the government may like to work out how many work hours are being lost while people are on hold.
    Every time Centrelink sent a letter to my son which was erroneous he would need to spend hours each time trying to fix it. If we multiply that by our 29 million Australians we could have built something quite significant!
    Triss
    6th Jun 2017
    8:44am
    It would be interesting,Rosret, if when the CentreLink made a mistake recipients added the hours they spent and sent CentrLink a bill. If CentreLink didn't pay it after the third reminder it was sent to a debt collector. Might work, after all they do it all the time.
    Priscilla
    5th Jun 2017
    2:27pm
    This is done on purpose by Centrelink so that they do not have to deal with people requiring support or people wanting to update information. This way they can penalise more people who are then unable to contact them, even if they go the Centrelink offices. Inhuman and disagusting! How come Malcolm Turnbull does not do something about this, after all, he is supposed to be running the country!
    niemakawa
    5th Jun 2017
    2:35pm
    Changes in circumstances have to be reported to Centrelink within 14 days. Unfortunately action by Centrelink can take several months. Usually I call them after 1 month if any updates have not been effected. Remember updates kick in from the date you inormed them not the date they completed their part.
    Polly Esther
    5th Jun 2017
    2:57pm
    Centrelink and Telstra are competing against each other. The winner being the one that takes the longest time for a knowledgeable person to come on line after you get the run around by the robot :) Oh ho hum!
    MICK
    5th Jun 2017
    3:34pm
    Not unlike the South American lottery first prize methinks.

    5th Jun 2017
    4:33pm
    Put more staff on the phones and more frontline staff. We are continually told that the number of those receiving pensions or welfare is increasing at a fast rate yet the number of public servants is being reduced to save money.
    MICK
    5th Jun 2017
    4:39pm
    Sounds like a classic need for Jobs & Growth. All talk maybe.
    Anonymous
    5th Jun 2017
    4:49pm
    Ah MICK, thank you for clarifying that. I thought Turnbull was talking about an old schoolmate, Jobson Grothe with whom he had lost contact.
    MICK
    5th Jun 2017
    5:07pm
    Well said.
    AutumnOz
    5th Jun 2017
    4:40pm
    IF another 250 people are to be employed in an effort to cut the waiting time on the phone waiting for an answer from Centrelink I hope the government employment office checks they can speak English.
    Last time I was in the Centrelink/Medicare office a couple of towns away the person who was supposed to help people didn't seem to understand why they were there and couldn't answer questions.
    I left and wrote a letter and dropped it in later. Still haven't had an answer so maybe none of the staff knows English.
    niemakawa
    5th Jun 2017
    4:43pm
    Do you have any proof that the letter was received. I always take a copy with me and ask Centrelink to acknowledge receipt stamp/date/time.?
    AutumnOz
    5th Jun 2017
    5:06pm
    Niemakawa,
    No I do not know if they received it but I did leave it at the desk at the office.
    I suspect I shall have to contact Centrelink again but that will have to wait until after the current lot of bills are paid.
    It is expensive (petrol costs) getting to a Centrelink office in the rural areas.
    MICK
    5th Jun 2017
    5:09pm
    The important question is will they be Australians or people in an offshore Call Centre. Given the way we are going I am not too sure about whether we will see Jobs & Growth or Unemployment and Welfare.
    Missskinnylegs
    5th Jun 2017
    5:42pm
    Often when you do get to speak to a real person, the information provided is wrong - is it any wonder we go grey - with sheer frustration and stress. The MyGov account is easy to set up online - but not easy to adjust anything. I am still waiting for Centrelink to make a correction - seems I am not allowed to but it was recommended I update income and assets online - over 3 months and no result. What a bunch of wallies!
    niemakawa
    5th Jun 2017
    5:52pm
    Any adjustment which may reduce your pension will take effect from the date you informed centrelink. 3 months is a long time IMO. I once updated some income on-line, knowing that it would more than likely have a negative affect on my entitlement. After one month with no ction taken by Centrelink I called them, explained my situation and the next day the update was made. Nonetheless I received a letter asking for a refund of an overpayment. Centrelink can claim overpayments for an indefinite period, so be aware of this.
    Cat
    5th Jun 2017
    6:10pm
    I haven't been able to get through on the disability service phone number for 5 years.
    niemakawa
    6th Jun 2017
    6:21pm
    " I just called to say I love you......." "Call, call why don't you give me a ring..."
    niemakawa
    7th Jun 2017
    2:57pm
    This message on myGov website today. It seems that everyone will need a myGov account to access centrelink services.
    Quote
    Important announcement

    "Soon, you will need a myGov account to access your Centrelink services.

    myGov is a fast, simple way to access all your government services, with one login, one password, one destination. If you don't already have an account, you should create one now. It is easy and will only take a few minutes." Unquote