Opinion: How Centrelink really works

Surely, we can do better for those in need.

How Centrelink really works

My local Centrelink office is a huge soviet grey concrete building with opaque windows and occupies the cube block between Barry and High Streets in the inner Melbourne suburb of Prahran.

George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four could well be set in this modern, ultra-impersonal space.

I am visiting at 10.30am on a Friday to check what I believe is an underpayment on a Medicare claim. I’m not here for a Centrelink service as such, just a quick answer on my concern and to file another claim if I am correct. I did try to go online, but my MyGov account seems to be blocked and I’m not prepared to hand over any more data, as I’m not convinced the Federal Government is any good at protecting my privacy. At least the jury is still out on that account.

Anyhow, I join the queue of five or six people to speak to the (one) staff member already dreading inquiries. It takes five to 10 minutes to get to the front of the queue and share my request, at which point he delivers the same sombre message as all those ahead of me have received: “You can see someone, but there’s a long wait. It’ll take between an hour and a half and two hours.”

Seriously?

I turn my head to where he’s gesturing and do a quick head count – about 30 people are seated, in various stages of boredom, agitation, somnolence, anger and agitation. Far out!

I then do another head count of the actual Centrelink staff. On this sunny Friday, there are about nine staff members present to handle the 30 plus 10 (now behind me in the queue) citizens who need help. There are about 40 desks with computers, but only nine staff.

I mention that I have an appointment elsewhere in an hour and he suggests I come back, maybe at 8.30am another day. The fact that I work Monday to Thursday makes little impression on him. So, I ask Bob (he looks like a Bob) if he thinks they are understaffed and he says: “Yeah, probably.” So, I fill in my second claim, rejoin the (now) 12-person queue and hand it over before making a hasty retreat.

I can only assure this shambolic situation is playing out around the country and I find this thought deeply troubling. Yes, I realise the push is to move to online, and for all transactions to be done via the website or app, but when it comes to such things as the Age Pension, it’s not necessarily that simple. The rules are complex. They have changed a lot, as have entitlements. The pension is highly targeted, there are few general rules or general circumstances that apply.  So sorry for using the vernacular, but it’s f***ing hard to have all your questions answered online. And, if you are one of the 15 per cent of Age Pensioner who rent, typically you will need all your dollars per annum, including rental supplement, to forge an existence.

So, when you visit a Centrelink office, you are unlikely to be filled with the milk of human kindness, after enjoying a smashed avo breakfast and good coffee on the side. No, you are probably already feeling up against it. So, to be asked to sit and wait 1.5 to 2 hours for one to two questions particular to your circumstances to be answered is probably adding insult to injury. Yes, you could get on the phone and be one of the 43 million calls annually.

If you are on a full Age Pension, it’s unlikely you will have a landline as they are ridiculously expensive. So you would have to call on a mobile, so it won’t be a free call.

You could try the online digital assistant. For the purposes of this article, I went online and tried asking ‘Sam’ some questions, but his repertoire limited his answers even more, so I quickly shut him down. For the record, the Commonwealth Services Delivery was established in 1997. Its motto is ‘Giving you options’.

It seems ‘giving you’ options means:

  1. not answering the phone
  2. meaningless robot answers
  3. a 1.5–2 hour wait in one of the 911 service centres around the country.

I am sure the management of the people who work for the (former) Department of Human Services (now ‘Services Australia’) are well intentioned. But, as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions and pay in this concrete bunker on the corner of Barry Street must surely feel like the road to hell for my 30 buddies this morning.

Surely, we can do better for those in need.

If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.

RELATED ARTICLES





COMMENTS

To make a comment, please register or login
AutumnOz
13th Feb 2020
10:49am
My partner died, it was unfortunate as we were together a long time.
Centrelink required me to go to the nearest office to return the medicare and concession cards for both of us - this required a trip into the nearest town with a Centrelink office. OK I arrived at about 8am and was third in the queue, when the door opened at 8.30 am the queue stretched out of sight and around a corner.
There was one person to greet us and ask why we were there and two, or perhaps three, others to deal with all the queries. It took another half hour to get to see one of those at a computer and from there they took both medicare and concession cards and the person then demanded I tell them of all assets so they could adjust my part pension and he almost refused to give me a printout of what they had listed inder our names.
A couple of weeks later I received a communication from Centrelink with a list of assest supposed to belong to both of us - it was a totally different list the the original printout from the office - and the accompanying letter was full of acronyms I had never heard of of no full printout of what any of them meant.
That will require another visit to Centrelink as I have not been able to contact them by phone.
The whole Centrelink system is in urgent need of reorganization and also needs extra staff preferably by people who speak English as a first language.
ray @ Bondi
13th Feb 2020
12:33pm
here here a broken system, but then the goverment saves a significant amount of $$ for their golden trough.
Hoohoo
14th Feb 2020
5:24pm
It's a disgrace! The purpose for their lack of service is to cull those who are not (yet) desperate for a payment. There may even be a few amongst the hordes who are nowhere near desperate and probably aren't eligible for anything anyway.

But to make all the other genuine people who need their service wait and suffer, is a simple case of punishing the poor and bereaved.

And for many people, like AutumnOz, their only reason for entering the Centrelink building is because a loved one has died, and you are required by law to declare any changes of your circumstances to Centrelink. It's enough to make you sick.
Horace Cope
13th Feb 2020
11:32am
I'd like to challenge the description of the Centrelink building in Prahran. The frontage to High Street is mainly glass with film to allow viewing from inside. There is a small amount of grey paint at the rear of the building but this part doesn't give access to the public. None of the windows at street level are opaque.Obviously when an article starts with such a description, the content of the article is unlikely to be positive but is there a need for such an erroneous description?
Mariner
13th Feb 2020
3:46pm
Too close to Toorak, Horace. They only have wealthy customers and need a classy building. Have been in Melbourne just yesterday, would like to take a look.
Horace Cope
13th Feb 2020
4:02pm
If this link works it will show a part of the front of the building, Mariner.

https://aussiecriminals.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/590923-prahran-centrelink-shooting.jpg
Mariner
13th Feb 2020
4:19pm
Thanks Horace. The link worked and the building looks much better than the one we have here. Thank you again for making the effort.
Wake Up
13th Feb 2020
11:36am
HaHA Had to join the que to make an appointment to see a financial services officer that's after told to take a seat. 30 minuets later call up to the same person who took 60 seconds to make the appointment for the following week & that just one of my issues with this department.
Wake Up
13th Feb 2020
11:58am
Oh & the response from the financial services officer was to laugh in our face & say people like us at 67 & 68 who have always worked would rather go back to work rather than deal with Centrelink
mogo51
13th Feb 2020
11:37am
The problem with this article is that you have put 'work' and 'Centrelink' in the same sentence. Thereby, you have 2 negatives which culminates in a short circuit!!!
Cazzxf7
13th Feb 2020
12:03pm
Centrelink is an absolute embarrassment to Australia there systems are outdated as are there employees. Sack them all and make them reapply for their jobs, not many would succeed in earning it back. Customer service just doesnt exist these days
Billv
13th Feb 2020
2:18pm
But that is everywhere. Customer service was likened as a disease and eradicated
Anonymous
13th Feb 2020
8:00pm
Dealing with customers was too stressful for the emasculated workforce, so it was abolished in favour of a non-responsive telephone system and Robber-Debt.
Bakka
13th Feb 2020
12:07pm
Great article and agree with comments by other posters.
Have been on a part pension for 18months now. Resisted as long as we could afford to but in the end..no choice.
Trying hard to maximize investment returns through our super fund so that one day we can rid ourselves of this heartless, monolithic, demeaning and adversarial establishment... There has to be a better way.
Billv
13th Feb 2020
2:17pm
Oh, there is. Dismantle Centrelink, everyone on the same pension regardless of assets (which were worked hard for by the way) No asset testing. Then there would be no need for the wages and costs of running Centrelink. The money saved would pay the pensions.
Mariner
13th Feb 2020
5:07pm
Yes Billy, agree. But there would be taxes payable on all income including the pension, and there also could be some capital gains taxes for people with colossal assets. Most of us would be better off or the same and every old person would get the health care card. No more hiding assets to get the pension and the card - all straight forward. Just hope the Canberra people will listen to you.
inextratime
13th Feb 2020
12:08pm
Welcome to the world of Centrelink. Your description of your visit is absolutely replicated in every other Centrelink office that I have had the misfortune to visit. I am owed money by Centrelink, not much but I know they owe me but the trauma of going through the miserable experience of feeling like a second class human is not worth the effort, something I think CL work on to reduce the number of visitors.
Hoohoo
14th Feb 2020
5:31pm
It's true. You have to be REALLY desperate to follow through with any claim. Tough luck if you have a job or other commitments that make you time poor.
rtrish
13th Feb 2020
12:13pm
Fortunately I rarely have to deal with Centrelink/Medicare now in person, but it’s no fun. I live in a large urban centre, with no car. When I do need to turn up, I could go to one a few blocks away, but it is slow and unwelcoming. I have the leisure to travel by public transport; I would rather travel some distance as there are 2 offices that are more pleasant. As I neared Age Pension age, after being on Disability pension, I was “invited” to transfer to the Age Pension. On that basis, I assumed it would be simple to switch over. No, no, no! It was as if I was just applying afresh for the Age pension. Silly me. By the way, Medicare has a 24 hour phone line (unless that’s changed recently) and I ring them as soon as I wake. Can often get through then.
Andrew
13th Feb 2020
12:15pm
When I applied for a pension. I did it on line at centrelink. As I got to each page more information was required. It had to go home for various bits of information and make phone calls to super et for statements. After several months nothing happened even though they had my contact details. Apparently that one more bit of information that hadn't been asked for. After submitting that.. I was told my super was out of date only 3 months and I had to get another statement.i suggested to one of the staff members that a booklet be provided listing the basic requirements for applying for a government allowance. It would make her job and more job a lot easier. I note the email below statement a lack of defination of acroynms that would be life easier as well normal on many business contracts. Her response was don't worry it! I am quite computer literate but the website is far too clunky for getting quick and accurate information.
Mariner
13th Feb 2020
5:15pm
Applied with the old paper forms, worked on 3 continents before settling down at 26. All places were needed, and the dates were a nightmare. Who keeps the stuff for 40 years when thinking that one would never get to 65? Embassies helped out some, old correspondence to my family overseas came in handy but it took me months to have it all complete. Now everything is in order and so far we have no bother. All I can say - prepare all that gear in good time, start collecting info well before you are pension age.
Bundabergian
13th Feb 2020
12:17pm
We are recently arrived back from several years overseas, we are 61 and 70 and not working. (They all think we are past it!)
Hubby had received a part pension while we were in France but one day it just stopped. He tried to call them to ask why. The overseas help line only works in Sydney office hours, so from France that meant getting up at 3am, but he did it and got told that they had reassessed our asset and it had just taken him over the limit. Never thought to tell him!
Anyhoo, we let it go and when we got back and bought a house (so had no more money in the bank!) we went into our new local office to update everything. Thought that now he might get a part pension back.
I went in first, to see if I could get a low income health care card. Same story, one queue to get sorted, and security guys breathing down your neck, signs everywhere saying RESPECT our staff. The girl at the triage desk was rude and basically told me no I couldn’t speak to someone, to go home and do it on line, I had tried that and had some issues with documents that the system asked for but did not actually exist and of course it won’t move on to the next step. I said these documents don’t exist, her answer was, well they have to be submitted. I left in tears of frustration.
Then hubby went in to update his pension info. Again got the one desk girl and again she quizzed him, said “it has to be done on line”, we had tried that but again run into problems. She just kept parroting “it has to be done on line” and hubby said but it is stuck, and it got nowhere. He complained that it had asked him for something, I can’t even remember what it was and she basically told him he was a liar, and that the system didn’t ask for that! He then saw red and left. He got home despondent and the closest to tears that I have seen him in 20 years of marriage.
So, I got cross and I write to the minsters and our local member and let them have it. Got all sorts of people calling me up to say sorry we had had such issues but they would sort it out. Eventually they found my part completed application and shoved it through. A very helpful lady from Canberra phoned my hubby and talked him through the pension thing, she was able to make the system skip the things that were holding it up. It took several weeks from my letters but he did get his part pension.
Why were the local office girls so rude and unhelpful? We are both polite intelligent people and were trying to do the right thing but they made us feel so low with their attitude that we were contemptible. I think they didn’t fully understand the system, and to be fair we are an odd case as we have some other income and assets, but why didn’t she just get us together with a person who could help?
They need to get pensions and Medicare out of Centrelink, we don’t deserve this treatment.
Muttonbird
13th Feb 2020
3:28pm
Yes it's truly dreadful Orwellian stuff. Nobody deserves such treatment, not just us middle-class types.

Well done you for getting onto the pollies. It's the only way, and it's too bad more "customers" aren't yet onto it.

As for the attitude of the CSO staff - imagine trying to deal with desperately frustrated people all day long, while knowing that the system is set up to fail. A recipe for compassion fatigue if ever there was one.

The catastrophe of Centrelink is a symptom of our growing social inequity and failing social contract. We are conditioned to think it is only there for failures and bludgers - and then we retire!

Never too late to start a revolution.
Anonymous
13th Feb 2020
8:04pm
Franz Kafka at the Centrelink Office:-

"I want to set the records straight so I can receive my due."

"You'll have to do that online, sir - we do not process paperwork here."

"I tried online but it rejected my efforts and told me to attend the office!"

"Yes, sir - and we are no directing you to do it online as required..."

"That isn't working.."

"Not our problem, sir - we design our systems very carefully to achieve the maximum result planned...."

"Yes - but your maximum result is non-performance.. can I see a supervisor?"

"You'll have to apply online sir, after you finsih your initial application...."
Triss
13th Feb 2020
10:16pm
It's a trickle down effect, Bunderburgian. The government and media constantly harp on about our ageing population and how pensioners are overburdening the health system, the taxpayers and everyone else they can think of and the saying "if you repeat a lie loud enough and often enough it will get believed" comes true. Pensioners become second class citizens in CentreLink's eyes and Centrelink employees become the elite.
Sconny
13th Feb 2020
12:19pm
I am hopeful that individually Centrelink staff are decent and caring people however I do have a name for my local (19 klms away) Centelink office...the name ...Gestapo Headquarters
Mariner
13th Feb 2020
3:48pm
Mine is about the same distance away from where we live and we only ever had good service from them. Mind you they like part pensioners as long as they do not bother them to get a full one.
ray @ Bondi
13th Feb 2020
12:32pm
how good would the Telstra 1 billion profit be if it was still owned by us the (government) and that is just Telstra, selling OUR assets was never about better conditions or government but just more for those that already have astonishing amounts, yep 1 billion would go along way to hiring a few staff, and some leftover for the hospital system but that is going off track.
johnp
13th Feb 2020
12:37pm
Yep. It is a huge nation wide issue and is very "Kafkaesque" as well as being a "Catch22" situation. Made all the more nonsensical because of the assets taper test causing the need for an even larger bureaucracy. Brings to mind the philosophy of Franz Kafka and his writings like the book "The Trial" where he is brought to extreme despair where from recollection he eventually commits suicide due to govt meanderings.
For reference as follows
"Kafka's work is characterized by nightmarish settings in which characters are crushed by nonsensical, blind authority. Thus, the word Kafkaesque is often applied to bizarre and impersonal administrative situations where the individual feels powerless to understand or control what is happening".

Its a pity that Hank Jongen has to lie because he is forced to by the govt.

I have said that both LNP and Labor are like the nazis. LNP got in power thru lying, cheating, bullying and conniving. Labor lost cos they are like the bumbling guards in hogans heroes.

Even if an individual has a small number of shares they would have to go to centrelink almost weekly !! Because the value of shares go up and down daily - actually by the minute !!
Hoohoo
14th Feb 2020
8:34pm
Great point, johnp. The chances of getting it wrong are incredibly high when it comes to shares. And I love your Hogan's Heroes analogy. As Shultz would say "I know nothing! Nothing!"

But for most older people who have worked hard and paid taxes all their lives, it is insulting to be treated so abominably. It's like they're punishing you for being poor or for retiring.

They only want YOUR money - they don't want to hand any out, no matter how much you deserve it.
Circum
13th Feb 2020
12:38pm
I learnt something.Because I do have a landline,I am not on a full aged pension.My landline costs $15 a month including calls.A mobile phone I do not have.
I feel sorry for Centrelink staff as they did not design the inefficient processes that they work under.
Bundabergian
13th Feb 2020
12:41pm
Clink staff.....true but they don't have to be so bloody rude when they administer them do they?
Retiring Well
13th Feb 2020
12:55pm
My landline plus all calls comes free with my NBN internet.
KSS
13th Feb 2020
1:23pm
Retiring well may be so, but I bet it doesn't cost $15 a month does it?
Retiring Well
13th Feb 2020
3:34pm
No it costs me nothing.
Mariner
13th Feb 2020
3:37pm
KSS - my landline is $110 a month with internet and a mobile phone access for my wife, all calls are included to mobiles and landlines within Australia, overseas calls are priced reasonably. I use Internet Radio a lot and so I have unlimited broadband.
Circum
13th Feb 2020
12:38pm
I learnt something.Because I do have a landline,I am not on a full aged pension.My landline costs $15 a month including calls.A mobile phone I do not have.
I feel sorry for Centrelink staff as they did not design the inefficient processes that they work under.
johnp
13th Feb 2020
12:47pm
Thats great re a landline costing $15 a month including calls. Which provider is that thru ??and does it include any internet access ??
Circum
13th Feb 2020
2:49pm
Johnp,the internet provider is Telstra.Internet access is an extra $60 per month.
Circum
13th Feb 2020
2:49pm
Johnp,the internet provider is Telstra.Internet access is an extra $60 per month.
johnp
13th Feb 2020
3:10pm
Circum.
Telstra do have NBN plans for $59- p.m. which includes Internet (25Gb p.m.) and all calls in Aust.
Patrone
13th Feb 2020
12:43pm
This isn't getting any better-I've friends who believe it borders on "elder abuse". Staffing cuts obviously have cut costs but the delivery process has suffered terribly. As a significant voter group we really need to get serious about bringing about change. But do we have a reliable, sympathetic political candidate who we can elect?
Anonymous
13th Feb 2020
8:07pm
I've been asked (again) to stand for election... just saying...
Witzend
13th Feb 2020
12:45pm
My husband and I are self funded retirees, our punishment for diligently saving and adding more to our super, we went into our Centrelink office in June 2019 to apply for a healthcare card, we have not heard anything since, I rang in December 2019 and was informed that the issue will be dealt with 'soon'. I enquired what was meant by the definition of 'soon', next week, next month or perhaps another 6 months in addition to the six just passed. I was informed they did not provide timeframes, I'm sure you don't. Anyway we are still waiting.
johnp
13th Feb 2020
12:51pm
A typical "Catch22" or "Kafkaesque" situation
Hoohoo
14th Feb 2020
8:45pm
My partner and I are still working, though he is due for an OAP later in the year. Our income is so low we are eligible for a healthcare card, and have been so for about three years. We applied in August (online via mygov) and were given an interview at C'link where we provided a ream of financial information and details about how many new underpants we possessed. We were told it takes two weeks to process, but it would probably take 6 weeks.
After 2 months, we rang to enquire, and were told we were still being "processed". At three months, we rang again (please bear in mind "ringing" took about 40 minutes or more each time, and we only got to speak to someone because we had a "reference number") - this time to be told, because we have savings that we have been put down the priority list. Still waiting...
floss
13th Feb 2020
12:54pm
The whole country is a mess and we have a state and federal governments that can't even govern their selves what more can you expect.All gov. departments have got rid of more than half their trained staff plus the fact we have this insane idea that forced population growth is the way to go. What else can it be but a bloody disaster.
Anonymous
13th Feb 2020
8:12pm
Spot on been watching the ABC program on housing etc - 7.30 - and every time I see this expansion of population I shake my head in disbelief... no answer to any problem anywhere in sight with that policy.. just more crowding, fewer jobs, less average income, less personal control and sovereignty for the average Australian citizen, increased social disorder and outright disruption, over-burdened infrastructure such as sewers, roads, rail etc, increased crime ... the development of future vertical slums such as predominate in many European and American cities...

Qui Bono? Who is gaining from all this? It sure ain't you, brother and sister...
Anonymous
13th Feb 2020
8:13pm
El Sydney and Melbadishu will soon drown in their own excrement..... I won't feel sorrow over that... even the talk of raising the height of Warragamba Dam could result in its collapse... so water.. where is it coming from in the future?
Sinkers
13th Feb 2020
12:57pm
Applied for aged pension and sent all the info via post. Waited 3 months, received a email saying they have lost the forms and rejected my claim. Start over again and visited our local office only to be told to do it on line and directed to a computer. Rang the complaints line and was talked through to completion. Now I know to ring complaints and get the service you deserve.
Hobbit
13th Feb 2020
1:03pm
Matches my experience with Centrelink. Centrelink's purpose in life is to reduce expenditure.
At one Centrelink I overheard the staff saying to one another 'we should breach all of them' that's the culture in Centrelink.
floss
13th Feb 2020
1:04pm
Good one mogo51.Hope CLink don't get a short circuit as the government have put off most of the well trained power workers.Just look at the blackouts in Sydney.
Jacka
13th Feb 2020
1:11pm
Once again shoot the messenger. Spare a thought for the poor old public servant working in Centrelink. I'm sure it's not his or her first choice of government departments to be employed by. If the building mentioned is a remnant of Soviet Russia, the staff have to go there every day of their lives, as opposed to the general public to turn up once a month or less. Regrettably these days, under staffed government facilities are a way of life. On occasions when I do have to go into a Centrelink office for reporting reasons, it's generally not a pleasant experience. Not due to the staff but due to the majority of their clientele. Rude, aggressive, abusive, untidy, unwashed, a fair assessment. I have nothing but pity and admiration for the staff working for Centrelink, what they have to put up with is amazing and not in a good way. If your too impatient to wait, around an hour or so, (you could be lucky, it could be way less, depending on the day and the time) to discuss your business with Centrelink, my suggestion is don't go to a Centrelink office. Do it by phone or online. Once again, the staff are simply people like you or me doing a very difficult job for not a lot of money. They don't need abuse and ridicule from imbeciles. If past government had created a socially dependent society, people would not be in this predicament. Jacka
older&wiser
13th Feb 2020
8:11pm
Jacka, you are joking saying 'use the phones to contact CL'. I needed to contact them, for days when I phoned all I got was the engaged signal. When I did get through, not one of the menu prompts covered my query. When I replayed the menu prompts, and selected an option, I was on hold for nearly 2 hours. Nearly feinted when a person answered, only to tell me I had come through to the wrong section, and they needed to transfer me. After nearly another hour wait, I gave up. And this was on my mobile. I would not waste my time phoning again.
Mac
13th Feb 2020
1:15pm
Yes, it is a nightmare dealing with Centrelink.

When it came to my notice that my husband could be eligible for a part Aged Pension a friend in our town told us to go to a finance office where one of the staff who used to work at Centrelink now worked as he had helped our friend get the Aged Pension.

This was complicated by my struggle to get a Disability Support Pension that this staff member thought I was eligible for - long story about that, more medical tests which made me ill to prove I was telling the truth and was grudgingly granted Disability Support Pension.

When my husband died after several years of declining health due to multiple chronic health issues I had to, before his death, go through the process of dealing with 32 pages of Centrelink documents outlining our assets with regard to Permanent Residential Care assessment.

I went back to the same finance office as I was unable to deal with all this extra stress plus dealing with my own chronic health issues regardless of the fact that it cost me money. It was money well spent as this assistance lasted a year after which I did not need it.

My husband's stay in permanent residential care lasted 4 days when he died which necessitated more paper work to cancel my husband's Aged Pension and reassess my financial position as I had now progressed to a part Aged Pension myself. It was an extremely stressful time and I just felt that I could not cope with any more paperwork after 2 months of daily hospital visits to see my husband, his transfers to rehabilitation, back to hospital, and finally to permanent residential care, medical tests, factors relating to my husband's deterioration and at the end arranging a funeral where, when I had to sign the document relating to funeral costs, that I willed my hand not to shake while signing it.
Luckily we had private insurance, arranged by me, several years ago although my husband did not want to take it up. But it led to him having a much needed serious operation after 1 year after waiting years on the public hospital waiting list.

The private insurance covered most of the horrendous cost of the 2 months of hospital admission and the multiple X-rays, operation costs, etc. so I was extremely grateful that I had gone against my husband's advice not to incur private insurance costs. I rearranged our budget to accommodate these costs.

Centrelink letters seem, to me, to have a draconian tone which I think should not be used by an Australian government authority or perhaps what I thought regarding Australia as being a fair country does not seem to exist any more. This was my thinking when younger but it is changing day by day to the other end of the spectrum.

It is great to have such a helpful finance office in our town that assists people with their Centrelink claims and if needed, I would use them again. The office staff entered all my details in their computer to send to Centrelink which was a task that, although computer literate in some aspects, it was too onerous for me to perform myself.
Laura52
13th Feb 2020
4:59pm
Reading your comment...my heart goes out to you on what you were put through.
itchyfeet
13th Feb 2020
1:29pm
I applied for a Commonwealth Health Care card over 2 years ago . Hardly a high cost, or high benefit card. All of my working life has been in Australia (50 plus years), I paid tax all of that time, have a Medicare card, etc and my personal details are with almost every creepy government department.-including medicare of course- which is now "managed" by Centrelink. At the time, the requirement was 1 form of ID- After the obligatory wait & giving the dismissive, impatient & aloof employee THREE different forms of ID, (including my medicare card!), she sat back in her chair & declared "you cannot prove you are who you say you are- Your application is declined". Even political intervention was a waste of time & I am still waiting- of course, lots of energy on inane excuses. Bottom line- I am well qualified for this minor benefit with my income in the past several years about what this office would spend on chai latte. My first & only experience with this department. Thank God I am a self-funded retiree & don't have to deal with them on a regular basis. Incompetent fools!
KSS
13th Feb 2020
1:31pm
Why are you 'still waiting' when you were told you wouldn't get the card and politcal intervention made no difference? Either do something different or give up, but simply waiting is not going to change the current outcome.
johnp
13th Feb 2020
2:20pm
KSS; from a practical point of view you need to state what that is "do something different "
KSS
13th Feb 2020
2:46pm
Oh well gee johnp, I don't know.... maybe give them the evidence they want?
itchyfeet
13th Feb 2020
8:31pm
ahhhh KSS- you sound just like a good public servant!- read half the information & make up the rest! I clearly did not explain myself very well. I gave them 4 pieces of documentation when 1 was required- that included my drivers' license (read Australia Card) with photo. For everyone else, this is accepted as ID- Not Centrelink obviously. My biggest concern is not really the card-although given there can be absolutely no question about my entitlement it would be nice to have this nominal benefit. I was not applying for a pension, disability payment, unemployment benefits, family allowance , sickness benefits or any of the other myriad ongoing expensive allowances. I think the biggest benefit from the card is having my Doctor's visits bulk billed! I have a driver's license, medicare card, passport, credit cards, tax file number & 50 plus years work history in the same state. (including 15 years with government)- & yet I am being told I am not who I say I am? Don't you see just the slightest problem here? If you are not scared by this you should be. What else do I do? These small-minded, uncooperative employees have not offered the slightest support or suggestion of how I might satisfy their dismissiveness. Maybe you are right- I will stamp 666 on my forehead & see if that works! Thats where we are heading.
Farside
16th Feb 2020
4:14pm
do you wonder why you found it so difficult to establish your identity with Centrelink when millions of others have successfully proven their identities?
pixii
13th Feb 2020
1:31pm
The Centrelink staff cuts and directing everyone to go online is to save Govt money. , The next step for Govt to save money, is to shift Centrelink offshore to where Banks and Insurance companies now operate ,,,,won’t that be FUN. !!!
Nomad51
13th Feb 2020
1:36pm
I have given up on Centrelink. I found their staff to be lacking knowledge of Centrelink rules and will basically tell you anything in the hope that you go away. I did find one staff member who suggested that I see one of their financial advisors. I tried to arrange a meeting over the phone to be told that the nearest one is in North Sydney (some 180km from where I live). I went back to the branch and saw someone else who told me that the staff member should have arranged an appointment at the time at my local branch. As I was about to blow a head gasket, the staff member arranged a booking for me. A couple of days before the booking I got a call from the financial advisor to tell me that he was double booked and would not be able to see me but was prepared to discuss my issue over the phone. I explained the facts and was told that the initial information I was given was wrong and apologised; he suggested that I put in my paperwork. By the time my query was sorted, months had elapsed.
At every dreaded visit to the branch I couldn't help but notice the number of empty cubicles and the number of staff doing nothing but trying to look busy or huddled around a computer screen and having a chat.
I made the mistake of saving for my retirement and of course when the rules were changed I was deemed ineligible for a part pension. Others who had lost their pensions were however issued with a concession card. To this day I cannot get a satisfactory explanation as to why the same benefit is not available to all retirees. Like I said I have given up on Centrelink and my local member; you can flog a dead horse for so long. It will never get up.
johnp
13th Feb 2020
2:17pm
That is a common theme in many of these forums. That is
"I made the mistake of saving for my retirement"
JBP
13th Feb 2020
1:39pm
Interesting reading. My sympathy to those whose experience of Centrelink is negative. I live in a regional Queensland city and am an age pensioner. My pension isn't simple as it involves another country and the pension is paid partly by each country.I find I am able to do almost everything (asset value updates, reporting earnings, etc) on line, but occasionally I have to speak to a staff member. Telephoning is a living death - rarely does one get through, so I go in to Centrelink's local office... I have to say I have never waited more than 20 minutes, usually less, and staff members have always treated me with the greatest of respect. Of note though, is that the "other" country's equivalent department has an Australian 1 800 freecall number that is answered within a minute or two every time. Again, my sympathies to those whose experience is negative, but lets not blame the Centrelink employees - even the rude ones are probably only that way because of stress associated with workload and the frequently abusive behaviour of other welfare beneficiaries, who in turn are stressed by their own circumstances, etc.
Tanker
13th Feb 2020
1:49pm
I seldom have dealings with Centrelink and have only been in their office once 13 years ago, when I went onto the age pension. I found then the staff to be, in general, very helpful apart from one who was a waste of space.
Since then my dealings have been on-line which generally isn't too bad but I haven't had anything complicated.
The cutbacks they have been subjected to, from someone who used to work for them, have really damaged morale and staffing levels are ridiculously low. It could well be this is part of the softening up process that will lead to privatisation.
This government has this idealogical mindset that, despite the evidence to the contrary, keep selling off publicly owned enterprises in the belief they are more efficient. Well they certainly have not been to the end users. The system is broken but it because that is how the government want us to think of it so they can sell it off, probably to a mate.
I do hope this doesn't end up being I told you so but - - - - - -
Tanker
13th Feb 2020
1:49pm
I seldom have dealings with Centrelink and have only been in their office once 13 years ago, when I went onto the age pension. I found then the staff to be, in general, very helpful apart from one who was a waste of space.
Since then my dealings have been on-line which generally isn't too bad but I haven't had anything complicated.
The cutbacks they have been subjected to, from someone who used to work for them, have really damaged morale and staffing levels are ridiculously low. It could well be this is part of the softening up process that will lead to privatisation.
This government has this idealogical mindset that, despite the evidence to the contrary, keep selling off publicly owned enterprises in the belief they are more efficient. Well they certainly have not been to the end users. The system is broken but it because that is how the government want us to think of it so they can sell it off, probably to a mate.
I do hope this doesn't end up being I told you so but - - - - - -
ozirules
13th Feb 2020
2:02pm
Centrelink treatment of the vulnerable and dependent is nothing short of bullying. The same must apply for the UK equivalent. When my father died a few short years ago I emailed the UK office to inform them that he had passed away and they needed to discontinue his English contribution to his pension. I got a very snotty reply email stating that they could not do that via email and I was to phone them during their office hours to confirm my dads details etc. I wrote back to say that A, phoning during their office hours was not convenient for me due to the time difference, B its no skin off my nose as I'm onlydoing you a favour giving you this info and C forget I contacted you, just keep paying his pension. Needless to say the payments stopped without me contacting them further. They tried to bully me but had no leverage. Different country, same Rsoles.
Hairy
13th Feb 2020
2:02pm
This is par for the course in any centreclink.total ffff nightmare.universal pension and leave us alone to die in peace.ffff
GOW
13th Feb 2020
2:20pm
Giggle! Welcome to our world Kaye. I wish there was a vaccination or something you can take 5 minutes before dealing with this Government Department.....I have bitten my tongue that many times I'm sure there must be scars that only my dentist sees!
Robbo1
13th Feb 2020
2:24pm
Any wonder they changed the name from "Department of Human Services". Centrelink is totally "inhumane" and couldn't give a damn about anyone but themselves and how they can traumatised the pensioners, veterans and anyone needing asdustance.
What the government, on purpose, refuse to acknowledge, is that, most of us have worked all our lives and paid taxes; therefore;a pension is our right and is our "salary", which they government owes us. It's not taxpayer or government money; it's money we've worked hard for.
ScoMo and his henchmen are still refusing to abolish "RoboDebt,; knowing full well, it's illegal and has caused innocent people to take their own lives. ScoMo's a good bible bashing, pillar of his church and a so-called family man! Where is his Christian charity? How can he give himself and his ministers hefty, undeserved pay rises?
Anne Sowerby Ruston, the Liberal Party Minister for Families and Social Services, should try living on the pension. She's 'inhumane for stating "..Age Pension is already “generous”.. " and suggesting "...pensioners should be grateful for taxpayers’ largesse",when it's hangers-on on like herself and the other government ministers who are living on and "..should be greateful for taxpayers' largesse...". They all fail to acknowledge that they're all "public servants, elected by the people, to serve the people" However, with them, it's a case of "let the eat cake"!
Government scroungers and fat cats are entitled to lifetime perks, which is disgustingly wrong. Once they're no longer in office; they should live on the normal pension, which would save taxpayers' a lot of money.
.
johnp
13th Feb 2020
2:26pm
agree 100% Robbo
Triss
13th Feb 2020
10:58pm
Yes, Robbo1. If the pension is so generous then all the public servants should be on it and let's save on the huge pensions and perks that they're on now.
GrayComputing
13th Feb 2020
2:25pm
NO ASSET TEST FOR A PENSION EVER AGAIN!
What our founding fathers said in parliament in 1908:
Quote:_____

We wish to honour the sentiments of the legislators who introduced the Age Pension in Parliament in 1908. When it became law, it was commended with the following words: “… it removes the idea of old-age pensions from any suggestion of a charitable allowance. An old man, who has done his duty as a citizen for 25 years (is) as much entitled to a pension as a commander-in-chief or a chief justice.”
End Quote: _____

The pension was a reward for service. It should still be considered in this light. It is not a handout.

Therefore, a pension is not welfare.

But modern politicians have stuffed it up completely

It is time to kill off this insane hugely expensive pensioner whacking bureaucracy.

It is time for all of us (yes that means you) to rant at our MPs and Senators daily to take action for human decency and a huge stress reduction for pensioners

Most economist say we will save taxpayers money by dropping asset testing because of the massive overheads cost in running Centrelink and the 10,000 conflicting rules.

Hiring more Centrelink staff will only increase taxpayer’s costs for processing the creeping insane red tape monster system politicians and well paid bureaucrats have created.

Help scrap it now. Become a hero.

Even the UK and poorer New Zealand has a NO ASSET pension, so it is cheaper and user friendly.

Why worry that few million$ earners get it too. That is peanuts to them, not enough for a good vintage champagne.

Do retired and retiring people really look forward and want 100++ visits to/from Centrelink and be hassled by their crazed robo-debt scam and then waste even more time in the 3 million people waiting queues and more lost calls?

We all (that means you) need to tell our MP and senators every day that these criminal asset tests for a pension must be dropped now.

Ask your MP do they really like being part of the system that allows this indirect abuse of the elderly?

This abuse is actually sponsored by our government and forced down to Centrelink and borders on a criminal act.

Why do MPs normally compassionate persons let this Centrelink abuse happen at taxpayers’ expense?
ozirules
13th Feb 2020
2:28pm
agree with your comments GC and it seems the only thing our pollies are good at is stuffing things up....
Patrone
13th Feb 2020
5:53pm
Great research and good comments GC. Agree with you that more and more of us need to become activists to stop this illegal and unfair treatment of one section of our community. Am going to follow your suggestion and rant/rave at my local member daily in an attempt to raise some sort of discussion/awareness. Not that I expect any answer(s).
Laura52
13th Feb 2020
3:08pm
Before I comment on my experiences, as of Feb 1, Centrelink is now known  as "Services Australia"in case anyone gets a phone call, like I did on Monday!

I certainly feel deeply for the many people who have commented on this topic and the awful experiences they had to go through. The office I go to, is actually very good, but it always depends on who you get on the day....how knowledgeable and thorough the person is. I have only had one rude person at the desk but the other workers were very lovely. The other thing I noticed were so many empty cubicles with computers hence the long waiting time. So,  definitely understaffed.

When I applied to be a carer for my mother, I had to go to the office many times, to re submit documents as they were lost for some reason, twice?

Then last year, in November, my immobile, elderly Italian mother, was" randomly selected" by the government for an "aged pension review" and was asked to physically go to the office for an interview with my father who is also immobile. They have been pensioners for20 years or more, Mum has never worked. Now, I can only fit one walker inmy car. I have a small car, so no way I could bring both of my parents!  

Now,there has been no change in her circumstances, we only have the house and mum doesn't have much money in the bank. We got 2 phone calls about this, with the lady saying it can be done on the phone or a letter will be sent out about the review. I thought the phone calls were scam, so I rang the Centrelink scam line and I was told it was absolutely nothing to worry about but having dealt with Centrelink on my robo  debt issue, I freaked out! ( and I did get some money back as I proved Centrelink wrong on my robo debt, as well as money back from the ATO).

After the letter arrived, I called the case manager and asked why this is happening.She said it happens and people are called in to the office whether they have had a pension for a week or more than 10 years. I said mum can’t walk much or very far, doesn't understand English and only went up to grade 3 in education in Italy. So even if she is asked about assets, superannuation etc. and it was explained to her, she still wouldn't understand, would have a blank look on her face and dad dealt with the money side of things in the past.  She doesn't even get a pension from Italy, does not drive, no funeral insurance etc.  Anyway, it had to be done on the phone with me interpreting and mum still not understanding!!!

I had to bring in a signed form as a nominee on mum's behalf before the phone interview, and the lady wanted to set up a my gov ac count fo rmum and dad and I said no, as my parents don't want this and they don't know how to use a computer!!!! 

Then I had to waste my time again, to bring in mum and dad’s identity documents which were scanned in in twice in the past after mum got her pension and I applied to be her carer. For some unknown reason they lost my parents documents, immigration papers,identity papers on their system...again!!!!!

I hadto fill out an 18-page form! My mum had to account for household contents, clothing, jewelry ( mum and dad lost their wedding rings etc.), electrical items, curtains etc. as assets (we don't have much, all of it is second hand and not worth much), as mum and dad have been living in the same house for 52 years. I was emotional and distressed and this affected my mum's and dad's mental health as they were both so scared that she would lose her pension. They were so stressed.

Last Monday, whilst my father was quite sick in emergency, "Services Australia "tried to call me twice ( didn't know it was Centrelink as thought it was a scam call) and twice at home. The next day, I answered the call and now they want a new updated term deposit letter from my father's bank and I have to go to the office to see the case manager and  get 1 document scanned and uploaded....which means an hour wait or more for one page.I don't understand why they cannot confirm it with the bank directly?

So, I agree the whole system needs to be revised and made more efficient, streamlined, compassionate and not waste time for people!
ozirules
13th Feb 2020
3:23pm
It's a pity those that can effect change are not caring enough to acknowledge that there is a problem. Stick to your guns re on line dealings. I tried that through MyGov and it was a waste of time. I'm fairly savvy with computer use so I tried to update my assets and income on line. It would save me heaps of time going to a Centrelink office and lining up etc. I thought. I uploaded all my documents which showed that I should get a reduction in my pension, and waited for that to happen. I regularly checked my MyGov file which said no further action was required by me. After a few weeks I phoned Centrelink to be told do it all again they'd lost my file. MyGov was still showing however that my file had all the documents I uploaded so how could they be lost. Long story short, after 5 phone calls to 5 different staff members I was told to go to my local Clink office. All my info was then gone through in person and I was told it would now be fixed. 6 weeks later nothing's changed and I have given up. If a private company was run like this it would be out of business in no time.
sunnyOz
13th Feb 2020
8:45pm
Laura - Centrelink has a HOPELESS 'contact by phone' system.
I recently sold an investment property (at a small loss), and all this could not be notified online. So I took all the paperwork into the Centrelink Office. A few weeks later I noticed my pension had been reduced slightly. So went into my local CL office.
After a wait of just on 2 hours, I was stunned to be told 'we tried to phone you but could not contact you'. When I questioned this, I was told that (a) if CL phone you, it is from a private number, so doesn't show on your phone (b) they will only phone once (c) they will not leave a message.
Well that's just great! From MY side - (1) I refuse to answer any unidentifiable numbers due to the number of spam calls (2) if there is no message left - how am I to know who has called?
So it appears that CL expect you to answer calls and be available 24/7. They said they needed a letter from my bank, but because they could not contact me, saying I 'was uncontactable' - they automatically made the decision and cut my pension. Which was wrong, and they had to reverse it. But this also took a number of weeks, and both my accountant and I are adamant that the backpay was grossly underpaid.
I am pretty computer literate and still have all my marbles, but this whole experience with CL leaves a nasty taste in my mouth.
Mac
14th Feb 2020
3:35pm
Laura 52

Thank you for your kind comments to my post above.

I hope that your own extremely stressful situation has been finally sorted out and that it does not reoccur.

As for myself, I only have to look after myself and control my own chronic health issues these days after sorting out things after my late husband's death. It took a couple of years to get my anxiety and stress down to a much lower level.
Chris G
13th Feb 2020
3:25pm
I am in a catch-22 situation with Centrelink. I can't access my account online because it is attached to an old phone number. Any messages go straight to the old phone which is no longer in operation. You cannot update your phone number online, so therefore you cannot access your account! I dread going into our local Centrelink office, so I just live with it :(
Bundabergian
13th Feb 2020
3:59pm
That was our issue while living in France. Even though they knew we were overseas, they were sending hubby messages to his old Aussie phone.
Triss
13th Feb 2020
11:08pm
Write to or phone your local MP and explain, Chris G. I did after I had to deal with a sassy mouthed CentreLink employee and the MP sorted it out.
Old Fella
13th Feb 2020
3:26pm
Perfect record and summation of the situation and circumstances current in Centrelink Public buildings and locations throughout Australia. Does the Federal Minister or any of the Cabinet or politicians sitting on Government benches care ? - No! they don't give a s..t. This same story was relevant and in place and practice when in June 2011, I retired at age 65, Nine years later in 2020 and several Governments on, the identical disaster which is Centrelink continues. The only Government action has been Downsizing all Government Departments and especially reducing staff in Critically needed areas like Health, Education and other Social Service areas. Notwithstanding increased Cabinet members and their staff and increased Salaries for Politicians. And much cumbersome Legislation on Health, Education and other Social Services which few in our Community/Society unserstand.
Old Fella
13th Feb 2020
3:26pm
Perfect record and summation of the situation and circumstances current in Centrelink Public buildings and locations throughout Australia. Does the Federal Minister or any of the Cabinet or politicians sitting on Government benches care ? - No! they don't give a s..t. This same story was relevant and in place and practice when in June 2011, I retired at age 65, Nine years later in 2020 and several Governments on, the identical disaster which is Centrelink continues. The only Government action has been Downsizing all Government Departments and especially reducing staff in Critically needed areas like Health, Education and other Social Service areas. Notwithstanding increased Cabinet members and their staff and increased Salaries for Politicians. And much cumbersome Legislation on Health, Education and other Social Services which few in our Community/Society unserstand.
Muttonbird
13th Feb 2020
4:06pm
A self-funded retiree friend of mine has a financial adviser/fund manager who dealt with Centrelink on her behalf to get her Health Card approved. She is not online and has never darkened the door of Centrelink in her life. So that's how "the other half" still get their benefits. No ugly encounters with the haunts of the hoi polloi for them!
johnp
13th Feb 2020
4:40pm
Which financial adviser/fund manager is that ??
caporal
13th Feb 2020
4:24pm
Great article and so so true . However , standing in a que at Centerlink is still quicker than trying to call !!! The reality is that we are now classed as ''old pensioners '' and no longer worthy of any respect , especially by Centerlink !!! What more can I say , it appears that a lot of other pensioners are getting the same treatment . This Gov should be ashamed !!
caporal
13th Feb 2020
4:27pm
I may be 75 !! but still would like to meet Houdini II . just being silly . Maybe she works at Centerlink somewhere !!!
caporal
13th Feb 2020
4:27pm
I may be 75 !! but still would like to meet Houdini II . just being silly . Maybe she works at Centerlink somewhere !!!
Anonymous
13th Feb 2020
10:09pm
Never judge a book by its cover....
caporal
14th Feb 2020
8:38am
yes , correct Houdini . Have a nice day ! We should never loose our sense of humour .
caporal
14th Feb 2020
8:38am
yes , correct Houdini . Have a nice day ! We should never loose our sense of humour .
Captain
14th Feb 2020
1:39pm
caporal, Houdini is really Trevor in disguise.

His comments are usually well worth reading (except for dividend imputation sagas).
Mark
13th Feb 2020
5:43pm
I write in defence of Centrelink staff.
Centrelink staff are routinely on a daily basis faced with verbal and physical abuse. This is rarely published so as to avoid copycat behaviour. Verbal abuse is rife as is being threatened. The threats are not just directed at staff but also to families, for example, being told that you will be followed home after work where the assault will be perpetuated on you and anyone else.
Physical abuse extends to being pushed and shoved, punched, and stabbed.
Even a simple thing like taking a form can be dangerous. On many occasions the documentation presented by A client can be stained with blood and other bodily fluids.
So next time you are greeted by a less than happy employee remember what they have to deal with.
Laura52
13th Feb 2020
5:58pm
I agree with this. The staff are there to earn a living too, and in my experience, the majority have been really good and kind. It is the system or rules, I presume set up by the government, that they have to follow and the staff are in the middle, copping the abuse etc when something goes wrong, especially with on line issues. I wouldn't want the job....
Anonymous
13th Feb 2020
10:10pm
Never seen one incident of staff being abused.... had one restless young man at one time, but he was not directing his ire at staff - more at his mother or whoever it was...

I always make a point of being so nice and sweet to staff that there is no way they can refuse and not look churlish..
whatsupdok
13th Feb 2020
7:37pm
Look everyone, the real truth about Centrelink is it never lets go of any opportunity to give you less money. Every word on their site is about stopping your money! Fix Centrelink, it doesn't want to be fixed. If they just changed one simple thing the money saved would far outweigh the money given out. What do they need to change? Once a person tried give them a set amount and leave them alone even if they go back to work!
older&wiser
13th Feb 2020
7:55pm
Sounds like my local CL office. Has recently been totally renovated and revamped, don't know why, as there are 36 stations, up from around 20, but never more than 8-10 staff. I recently had to go to office as I could not lodge through MyGov, but I've learnt to take a book, or magazine. I am computer savvy, but agree, they are deliberately trying to push people onto online. I act for my elderly aunt, who does not have MyGov, but I still get messages telling her to check her MyGov account! Yet her file is clearly marked all contact is to be by snail mail.
One reason I gave up a casual job was the errors, headaches and stress CL put me through. Was just disgraceful. Plus I don't want to be hit with a fake Robodedt in 7/10 years time. The less I can have to do with then, the better.
Play Fairly
13th Feb 2020
9:35pm
The whole Centrelink system makes me feel like weeping. To think so many aged Australians are subjected to continual upset from such a lousy broken system, leads me to believe that our government is guilty of gross mistreatment of our most vulnerable and needy people.

Oh for decent Statesmen, who will stand up and fight to put an end to Centrelink and give us a much better service. We deserve it !!
Anonymous
13th Feb 2020
10:11pm
Elder Abuse .. writ large...
Play Fairly
13th Feb 2020
9:35pm
The whole Centrelink system makes me feel like weeping. To think so many aged Australians are subjected to continual upset from such a lousy broken system, leads me to believe that our government is guilty of gross mistreatment of our most vulnerable and needy people.

Oh for decent Statesmen, who will stand up and fight to put an end to Centrelink and give us a much better service. We deserve it !!
McDaddy
14th Feb 2020
11:59am
Don't feel too bad, 98% of people on the Age Pension don't have any problems, the 1 or 2% you hear about. Nobody is going onto a forum to speak about their positive interactions.
ozirules
14th Feb 2020
2:12pm
where do you get your figures from McDaddy, can you vouch for their accuracy.
McDaddy
14th Feb 2020
3:57pm
Common sense ozirules. Nobody is going on a forum or a current affair or 2gb or 4bc or Sky or anyone other outlet to vent how good their experience was. How they applied for the Pension, it was processed, they get their payment each fortnight, they make updates online etc. The 1-2% are usually the outliers who have a bad experience. Over 3.4 Million people receive the Age Pension each fortnight, even 2% is app 68000 people being stuffed around. But all in all the system works ok.
inextratime
14th Feb 2020
6:04pm
How many people get asked what they think about Centrelink ? You must not have heard about the quiet Australians McDaddy. I'm a pretty rational person and was in business all my life. I can assure you that if I ran my business like centrelink I would have gone broke.
inextratime
14th Feb 2020
6:04pm
How many people get asked what they think about Centrelink ? You must not have heard about the quiet Australians McDaddy. I'm a pretty rational person and was in business all my life. I can assure you that if I ran my business like centrelink I would have gone broke.
Chrissie
13th Feb 2020
10:55pm
Like many others had our first taste of Centrelink recently. our nightmare commenced. Started filling in forms online but hardly started before we hit a hurdle. Several hours of trying was fruitless therefore we ended up printing the entire application, filling it in and attending our nearest Centrelink office. My husband was applying for the aged pension as I’m not old enough yet. However was informed by them that I needed to go to Centrelink too, to prove who I was. Another trip . I feel that once you reach retirement age no one wants to give you the pension you are now a burden on society but we have worked all our adult lives and payed taxes. Apart from getting a pittance years ago that was called family allowance we have never sponged on the government. Now we are begrudged every dollar that the government hands out to us. Centrelink is a joke I had to deal with them when I worked and no one knew what they were doing even back then. The offices need to have different service sections eg medicare in one area, aged pensions in another, family services and Newstart all serviced by different staff whose role is specific to that area. Well you wouldn’t go to a neurologist for cardiac surgery, or ask a plumber to do electrical work. I envy self funded retirees
taylah
14th Feb 2020
12:00am
I'm sorry you had such an experience, but now somebody like yourself can at least verify how hard it is to get advice from either Medicare or seems Centrelink. Can you cc this article and comments to the Minister, he may believe it from a reliable sauce.
McDaddy
14th Feb 2020
12:10pm
The Ministers know already, they do nothing.
Rusty
14th Feb 2020
11:25am
Unfortunately a lot of this comes down to training. When your enquiry finally get escalated as in Bundabergian's case, it is amazong how simple it is to rectify. I have had similar issues and currently trying to make contact and the robot hanging up on me. My issue cant be dealt with online which is where the system is constantly pushing you toward. Just waiting on the right person to make contact. Very frustrating.
Baby Huey
14th Feb 2020
1:47pm
A few years back at the age of 71 I was made redundant. I was not at the time eligible for unemployment as I was over 65 and my assets at the time preluded the pension.
At the time the corrupt liars in government were wasting taxpayers money putting ads on TV spruiking how they have rolled out a program to put older Australians back into the workforce. So I made, regrettably, one of the biggest mistakes of my life by going to the local Centrelink office to ask not for money but for help in finding opportunities for work.
I anticipated a wait so I took a thick novel to read.
When I finally was directed to a desk to see a consultant(?) I got the distinct feeling the person behind the desk did not want to deal with me. After taking my details I explained to the person my situation and that I wanted to go back to work so as to extend the time before I will have to go on the pension.
The person said that the government could not help me as I was over 65 and not on a benefit. I then asked precisely what section of what Act denies a taxpayer from accessing help from Centrelink. The person just stared at me. I the asked the question "If you are not trained, not competent, and not authorised to answer my reasonable question can I please speak to someone who is". Big mistake. Another consultant(?) came over and aggressively said to me to the effect " This not your home country and we do not do things that way in Australia". I have lived in Australia for almost 50 years and am a proud Australian citizen. I then called her a racist. At that point the security guard came over and said I was acting aggressively and he would call the police to have me removed. I took phone photo of him and told him to go for it as I would sue him personally.
By that time a senior officer came over and took me to their desk and explained under s165 of the Social Security Act I am not eligible for help. The officer fobbed me off by giving the name of another "specialist" officer at a Centrelink in the next suburb saying the officer "may be able to help me".
After about 4 hours of frustration getting increasing angry I left. As I walked out the door I told the person at the front taking details that after my experience I considered Centrelink to be a bunch of cognitive defective f-wits. At least I got some smiles and nods from the people waiting in the queue to be "served".
I have not contacted or been to Centrelink since.
Centrelink won.
Colours
14th Feb 2020
1:55pm
Well where else is a corrupt government going to get millions of dollars to bribe people in marginal electorates to vote for them?
sandiefran
14th Feb 2020
2:54pm
I used to work at Centrelink - agers back when there was fully trained staff to help! Then I transferred to Veterans' Affairs doing the same thing -age pensions. So it really frustrates me when they get things SO wrong.
Here are two examples:
1. My mother went into aged care, and when I sold her house to pay the bond, I took all the documents into my local Centrelink office (now closed - the nearest ones are a long way away - and I live Sydney metro!) These docs were copied and noted BUT a couple of weeks later, I noticed that my mother's pension had been reduced by $130 p/f. The staff member that I had seen FORGOT to change things from "home-owner" to "non-home-owner"!
2. We have a joint self managed super fund and Centrelink assessed my SMSF as at 29 May and my husband's as at 1 July. They then raised a $4,500 overpayment - with 6 weeks to pay!.
Now, anything that is joint should be assessed jointly and at the same date - not weeks apart.
I got no satisfaction at all from the local office (they refused to see that joint assets need to be jointly assessed at the same date!), and as I knew the systems, and just how to get it all sorted - either go to your local federal member or directly to the Minister - I lodged all my details as a "Ministerial".
It was quickly assigned to a senior review officer (I used to get these at DVA to do) and it was soon sorted.
No apology was received for their mistake and the stress caused!
sandiefran
14th Feb 2020
2:54pm
I used to work at Centrelink - agers back when there was fully trained staff to help! Then I transferred to Veterans' Affairs doing the same thing -age pensions. So it really frustrates me when they get things SO wrong.
Here are two examples:
1. My mother went into aged care, and when I sold her house to pay the bond, I took all the documents into my local Centrelink office (now closed - the nearest ones are a long way away - and I live Sydney metro!) These docs were copied and noted BUT a couple of weeks later, I noticed that my mother's pension had been reduced by $130 p/f. The staff member that I had seen FORGOT to change things from "home-owner" to "non-home-owner"!
2. We have a joint self managed super fund and Centrelink assessed my SMSF as at 29 May and my husband's as at 1 July. They then raised a $4,500 overpayment - with 6 weeks to pay!.
Now, anything that is joint should be assessed jointly and at the same date - not weeks apart.
I got no satisfaction at all from the local office (they refused to see that joint assets need to be jointly assessed at the same date!), and as I knew the systems, and just how to get it all sorted - either go to your local federal member or directly to the Minister - I lodged all my details as a "Ministerial".
It was quickly assigned to a senior review officer (I used to get these at DVA to do) and it was soon sorted.
No apology was received for their mistake and the stress caused!
sandiefran
14th Feb 2020
3:16pm
Silly me! I completely forgot about a recent "episode" with Centrelink. They were doing a "review" of my SMSF and asked for a schedule from 1 July to 1 November. My financial advisor sent this in 28 November. Then letters 2 and 3 arrived in mid and late December. Spoke to Centrelink and was told that yes they had the information but had not actioned it yet!
Then in early January, my part pension was cancelled "for not supplying the requested information"
How can anyone win?
I phoned the "complaints" section and was told that it had been actioned - BUT NOT MARKED OFF!
No winners - just keep as low a profile as possible - and hope they ignore you!
sandiefran
14th Feb 2020
3:16pm
Silly me! I completely forgot about a recent "episode" with Centrelink. They were doing a "review" of my SMSF and asked for a schedule from 1 July to 1 November. My financial advisor sent this in 28 November. Then letters 2 and 3 arrived in mid and late December. Spoke to Centrelink and was told that yes they had the information but had not actioned it yet!
Then in early January, my part pension was cancelled "for not supplying the requested information"
How can anyone win?
I phoned the "complaints" section and was told that it had been actioned - BUT NOT MARKED OFF!
No winners - just keep as low a profile as possible - and hope they ignore you!
Priscilla
14th Feb 2020
4:24pm
Centrelink purposefully makes it difficult/frustrating/annoying so that you do not contact them. Try phoning and when you EVENTUALLY get through you get a recording that askes you if you want to listen to any number of government budget updates! Who in their right mind contacts Centrelink for this? Same applies to Medicare. By this time you are seeing red but are not supposed to be angry, just treat them with respect, which you are obviously not accorded by them! I had to visit 3 times to get a rebate sorted out even though on the first occasion I was told there would be no problem. The second time I got the same answer. The third time I was advised that the Centrelink staff SHOULD HAVE copied the GP referral (which I presented at all 3 visits). The money will be in my bank within 24 hours - time will tell. How earth do people who are ill, inform etc., manage to cope with these people who seem to have no idea of what they are doing. Another government play!!!
johninmelb
14th Feb 2020
9:13pm
The misnomer here is in the heading - How Centrelink Works - the anser is simple -It Doesn't

End of story.

The system is designed to stop you going there, phoning them etc. They don't want to see you or talk to you. Do whatever you like but don't go whinging to them. They're not interested. It is never going to be fixed because no-one is prepared to do anything. Most of us here read the cartoons in the daily paper for a laugh. Hank Jongen possibly reads the endless tripe wirtten here on YLC for his amusement.

Try and remember the old expression - 'If you are not part of the solution, you must be part of the problem'" If you want change, do something, otherwise learn to live with it.
RussT
16th Feb 2020
11:10am
Sooo ... about 2 yr ago I suffered a totally debilitating stroke aged 64 1/2 y/o. Bed ridden, paralysed on the right side, speech defects. 2 1/2 mths in hospital. You get the picture.
During that time in hospital I was able to avail myself of the services of the in house Social Worker. She recommended applying for a disability pension so we made a start on that. We sent in the forms we thought were required but Centrelink kept coming back with stuff first they said they couldn't identify me - born in Australia with an Australian Passport ... problems kept cropping up.I was getting sick of it and because of the nature of my health problems EXTREMELY stressed ... So I asked the Social Worker how long it would take to process and Centrelink came back the reply 6-8 months ... considering I was faced with having to outlay money - which I was short of - with an accountant to comply CL with no guarantee of success I didn't pursue it any further. I personally consider CL make things deliberately too hard for what are obviously genuine cases ... in case you are wondering I can walk with the aid of a stick now but with a pronounced limp ...
Laura52
16th Feb 2020
12:07pm
Oh my, Russ...I so feel for you here. This is outrageous! How cannot they not identify you? I don't understand at all. Like in the case with my parents, they most likely lost your documents...which happened a few times with my parents. I don't understand why they cannot check with The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and Customs or with the Australian passport office in your case or is too much work for a phone call for CL?The system is so broken. I agree, for genuine cases, for people in need, the system exacerbates simple requests, yet for others, it doesn't. I am a health professional and I know of many people who ease their way through the system or rort the system on purpose...no real genuine need. I don't know how they manage to do it and these people, home all day, not work and get paid to do nothing, get subsidised medications etc. I am so happy to hear about your recovery, you have come such a long way!!!!
BillF2
16th Feb 2020
5:46pm
The problem with Centrelink is not the poor buggers who work there, apart from maybe top management, who don't give a toss. it is the government - our elected representatives - who created the system, which only goes to show that they could not organise a piss-up in a brewery. It also shows how much they care for their fellow citizens. The only way they may be shamed into actually doing something positive, is to email this article to every one of them each day until the next election. It may also help to campaign loudly for the abolition of the parliamentary pension scheme, and for all MPs to be subject to the same superannuation rules and retirement age as the rest of us. Then they might actually get off their butts and improve Centrelink and the whole system for all of us. Self interest can often work miracles.
Laura52
16th Feb 2020
6:29pm
Well said and I concur 100 percent...the workers at "Services Australia" are merely following the broken system, procedures....created by out of touch , privileged politicians....who have no inkling what struggling people go through!


Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

  • Receive our daily enewsletter
  • Enter competitions
  • Comment on articles