Centrelink office wait times 30 per cent longer than 2015–16

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The thousands of people queueing up at Centrelink offices at the height of the economic impact of the coronavirus may be behind a concerning spike in Centrelink office wait times.

According to a report published in The Guardian on Monday, Australians waited 30 per cent longer on average in the last financial year than they did four years ago, despite considerably fewer people using these services due to the increasing use of online processing.

Pictures of thousands of people queueing up at Centrelink as unemployment started to bite at the height of the pandemic went viral, and it must be remembered that 2020 is a year unlike any other, but the report explains that even with the surge in joblessness Centrelink offices had fewer visitors than in 201516.

According to The Guardian’s analysis, 87 per cent of the country’s Centrelink offices had seen their waiting times increase over the past four years.

The report found people living in major cities waited about five minutes longer on average than they did four years ago, while those in regional centres spent about four minutes longer.

The increased wait times were despite figures that showed face-to-face contacts fell across 94 per cent of all Centrelink offices compared to four years ago.

In 201516, there were only 11 Centrelink offices where Australians could expect to wait longer than 15 minutes. Last financial year, 82 offices fell into that category.

Services Australia general manager defended Centrelink’s office wait times, explaining that “2020 had been a year like no other”.

He said that the average service centre wait time is less than 15 minutes and that the data source for measuring wait times had been improved in recent years, meaning that the figures were much more accurate than they were four years ago.

“The available data we have so far from this financial year (2020-21), shows that face-to-face (or service centre) wait times averaged less than five minutes from July to September,” Mr Jongen said. “This financial year, as at 31 October 2020, we are processing the majority of social security and welfare claims in less than a week (or six days) — nearly 20 days faster than last year; and calls are being answered almost 15 minutes faster than last year.

“More and more people are choosing to do their business online, including older Australians, who can lodge Age Pension claims electronically through myGov or the Centrelink app.

“We understand online options are not for everyone, and we are committed to improving people’s experience when dealing with us whether it’s by phone, face-to-face or digitally.

“In 2015, it was common for people to queue at service centres to update their address details, claim a Medicare payment or update their income or assets. Today, all major claims are now online, including 99 per cent of Medicare transactions, and we have simplified the claims process. This means the customers were more likely to see in our offices are those with more complex circumstances, such as losing their job, facing homelessness or fleeing domestic violence.”

Earlier this year, YourLifeChoices reported on the number of Centrelink offices that were being closed in an effort to cut costs.

Shadow minister for government Bill Shorten last month attacked the government for sweeping job cuts to Centrelink workers that will only exacerbate the problems relating to wait times.

“With record social security uptake, these workers are needed to staff the social safety net and other professional services to Australians doing it tough due to the pandemic and recession,” Mr Shorten said.

Did you visit a Centrelink office in person last financial year? How long did you have to wait before your needs were addressed? Do you think Centrelink services have been getting better or worse in recent years?

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Written by Ben

31 Comments

Total Comments: 31
  1. 0
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    I am sure our P.M . said that C/Link waiting times had been reduced and being a so called born again christian would he tell a lie.

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      Yep! But with his fingers crossed behind his back (Church approved), so he’s still in the clear.

      I think they were talking about wait times over the phone. But it’s crazy to think people have to queue up outside (because of COVID and limited numbers allowed inside). This would no doubt deter some people from even bothering to line up, but if you’re desperate for a payment which still keeps you below the poverty line, you will queue up regardless.

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      Suppose I am lucky – go to an office, an hour away by bus, go in and do my business with them and then I leave. No problem, but that office does deal in Medicare and old people pensions, not in employment.

  2. 0
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    The government is forcing older Australians who are technologically illiterate to aply for Aged Pension online. They give you the option of allowing a third party to do this on your behalf but that neccessitates that person knowing a lot of very personal information. Some staff give incorrect information others just point you at a terminal or telephone. Different centres can give very different levels of service so it pays to shop around.

  3. 0
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    Rubarb,rubarb,rubarb..
    ot have to wait long…rubarb,rubarb,rubarb….
    o in-line problems….rubarb,rubarb,rubarb…..
    ot long now…..rubarb,rubarb,rubarb….saving time…..rubarb,rubarb,rubarb….available data….rubarb,rubarb,rubarb…..face to face contact….rubarb,rubarb,rubarb……less than….rubarb,rubarb,rubarb….report found….rubarb,rubarb,rubarb…..20 days faster….rubarb,rubarb,rubarb….simplified claims process…rubarb,rubarb,rubarb….more likely to see….rubarb,rubarb,rubarb….year like no other….rubarb,rubarb,rubarb,rubarb,rubarb.rubarb,rubarb…..
    The BS just goes on and on don’t it!

    • 0
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      Apart from not knowing how to spell rhubarb, you’re going well. I agree with you about the BS just going on, and on, and maybe a few more for good (or maybe that should be bad measure).

    • 0
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      Damn – You’re right! Thanks for that Danny.

      I knew the darn word was spelt wrong and SOMETHING was ringing the alarm bells, but I was so anxious to get my message out there that in the end, I forgot completely to check it out!

      LOL…. Well you could say it was consistent!

    • 0
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      Now that I think about it – I wonder why the spell check didn’t pick up on it!

  4. 0
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    Even before COVID the Abbott/Turnbull/Morrison Liberal Government has slashed staffing levels in Centrelink to a point where the remaining staff simply cannot cope with the duties the Parliament has given them.

    No amount of spin from #ScottyFromMarketing can change this fundamental fact that anyone who has to deal with Centrelink knows to be true.

    • 0
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      A reason to bring in universal pension and let the ATO handle the thing without reporting every 14 days etc. End of tax year your earnings are plain to see, no argument and we are all taxed accordingly. Do away with the freebies only pensioners are entitled to and deal with everyone equally; if pensioners need more increase their payments but also their taxes. Seems to work in other countries. Here we have to cheat, bend the system and all other shenanigans like putting everything into your own property to maximum advantage. Go ahead and include the family home in the tax class. The younger generation would be happy getting cheaper housing.

  5. 0
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    “we are committed to improving people’s experience when dealing with us”…
    Wouldn’t be too difficult, every time I have dealt with them they have been rude and unhelpful. Several times I have left in tears. I wish they would re-separate out pensions and Medicare from the unemployment side.

    • 0
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      Glad you agree with me, see above! But would you also agree with the family home provision? That is the way it works overseas as there is an asset tax and not just on shares.

    • 0
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      not sure Mariner, Id have to look at the system as a whole, and it would depend on limits too. If it simplifies things then yes. We’d need to protect people who like my 95 year old mother in law who bought (70 plus years ago) in a crappy area which has become gentrified and pricey, so she now has nothing but a falling down house in a good suburb so worth (land value) big money.
      It certainly feels stupid to have to upgrade a home/town to bury money. Some friends of my mother’s recently did that and are not happy in their more expensive town.
      We have no children so don’t want to leave anything. We plan to spend anything by day dot – just need to figure out hen that will be!
      What I’d really like is to make Centrelink people’s lives better by making the system simpler, and having everyone understand it. And have them be able to do their job – which is to look after us and have time and resources to be happy to do that.

    • 0
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      Yes Budabergian, in the similar situation myself; my mum died last year at 96, same deal, a good area these days was not the case when they moved in. Cannot go over to Europe to get affairs in order and all has to be done remotely with different tax regime in that country. My siblings are helping me in this regard; flying there is not possible and they want to get ahead as tax year ends Dec 31. Pheew!!

  6. 0
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    Every adult Australian should get the same age pension as his or her neighbour. The current system rewards people who are able to “game “it and it is punishing people who saved up for their retirement. Make the age pension taxable, which means if someone has a big income besides the age pension, they pay taxes like everyone else. Bring in pension fairness and equality !

    • 0
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      Agree wholeheartedly. A simpler and fairer system would make life easier for all, and it would need fewer staff to administer the BS.

    • 0
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      Been saying this for years . You get taxed and assessed on your taxable income and it phases out when you reach a certain income . I am not talking about scaling I am talking about you just get paid on your taxable income including the Pension . THis means those with income will pay tax on their pension which is only fair .
      A single pension , and lets just cut this b/s about married/partner/mistress/whoring/call girl/
      living under one roof separated but not divorced /being assessed according to Centrelinks idea of what constitutes a relationship……………..just tip it all in the bin assess everyone as individuals because lets be honest if you are a mistress etec etc etc on a pension sucking a married mans dick then you should receive nothing because you are in a relationship of sorts and ohh for those girls don’t forget to claim your expenses and list all the married men you are on with .

    • 0
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      But no! – that would mean the very wealthy would have to pay some tax!

      They won’t like it because they’re used to having their very expensive accountants write off all sorts of expenses and investments against ALL their income, so they never pay any tax – that’s for losers! (middle income and low income people). How would the mega-rich cope?

      Toby I totally agree about paying all people as individuals, not half-people who do favours for each other.

      The Centrelink staff who’d lose their jobs could be employed at the ATO to chase real tax cheats (as opposed to chasing part-time workers for ‘falsely’ claiming a deduction for their work uniforms, work-related travel, etc.).

  7. 0
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    My daughter walked out of the Centrelink office recently having waited 20 minutes just to register to get to see someone. The place looked understaffed and the number of people waiting to see someone suggested at least an hour wait. With car parking in the area monitored by enthusiastic parking officers the choice became a financial decision.

  8. 0
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    This is part of the LNP’s ideological mantra. Reduce the size of the public service to reduce costs so taxes can be cut.
    What they often have to do is then employ private companies to do some of the work. This disguises the fact that numbers employed to do the work are similar but the public service has been reduced.
    The complication is that those privately employed people do not have the training or knowledge to do the job properly and often just give incorrect answers. They also do not have the same level of customer confidentiality and privacy standards imposed upon them.
    This government is gaining an unenviable reputation for inadvertently spreading people’s confidential information across the internet.

    • 0
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      “This government is gaining an unenviable reputation for inadvertently spreading people’s confidential information across the internet”.

      Tanker, really ? You have proof ?

    • 0
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      Yes, and have you seen how much the government is charging taxpayers for those employment agencies?

    • 0
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      And when they find you a job, they get a cut of the wage they’ve negotiated for you (which is the minimum adult wage, surprise surprise).

      It’s no wonder we’ve had stagnant wage growth for so long.

      And I heard in Question Time yesterday, the government has negotiated with Pauline Hanson so that employers can sack their staff (young or old) of less than one year, then employ government-subsidised young staff under a new ‘Youth Employment’ scheme. Then they’ll boast about how many new jobs they’ve created. Aren’t they marvelous? Jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs, jobs! The LNP are masters at this type of deceitful BS.

      And the poor buggers who’ll lose their jobs (who are also the same people who didn’t qualify for the JobKeeper Allowance) will be turfed out onto the dole, which the government also declared will be reduced even further in the new year. Merry Christmas, losers!

  9. 0
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    Once you have dealt with Centrelink you usually want to just run away and hide under a rock.

    I remeber my son before he got work and was at Uni he just reached the stage where he did not want to deal with them and was brought to a near breakdown just sorting out payments.
    On two occasions he ran out of money and they had cut him off for months on end .
    I di the chasing up after I got the facts .
    The result was in the first instance after many phones calls they back paid him for 3 months.
    The second time it was over the fact his course at UNI had gone longer than his original estimate .
    Once again I was infuriated, i got on the phone found someone asked for an explanation and they could not understand why the payments were stopped, well, I said it was some one in their Centrelink offices who had done this not once, but on two occasions.
    Once again they back paid him two months.

    It is no wonder wonder the humans do not want to deal with Centrelink staff and be open to that staff members interpretation of the rules.
    I will stick to the computer, plead ignorance and deal with the consequences at a later day because in all honesty if you think you are doing the right thing it should not be up to you to constantly argue your case with Centrelink.
    They brand you guilty till proved innocent and that to me is not what the function of Centrelink is supposed to be,.

  10. 0
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    The times have blown out because of redundancies at Centrelink. Surely we don’t expect this Govt to do anything to help the poor!

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