Is Centrelink improving?

The nature of dealing with a government department is that the people who have difficulties have their voices amplified by the media, while you very rarely hear stories about those who find the experience pleasant.

Bearing that in mind, even we were surprised at the latest finding from the most recent YourLifeChoices Retirement Matters survey, which showed that, generally, most members rated their dealings with Centrelink as excellent.

On a scale of one to five (with one being very poor and five being excellent), we asked members to rate their dealings with Centrelink. The average response rated the interaction at 4.7.

This result was a massive improvement over when we asked the question a year ago and the average response was three.

We also asked members to explain the reason why they selected their rating, which did contain some positive feedback for the government department.

“I haven’t had any problems of late, they have improved greatly in customer service over the last few years,” said one member.

“When dealing with Centrelink for my mother-in-law regarding payments of her pension the staff were excellent and resolved the issue,” said another.

“I started off with a part pension and then became a full pensioner with the help and understanding of Centrelink, which helped me with kindness and patience through this process,” said another satisfied customer.

People were also glowing in their praise of Centrelink’s Financial Information Service officers and their online information process.

“The human services website is very clear and easy to navigate. There is an excellent tool called the Payment and Services Finder to estimate entitlements to Centrelink payments.”

“Their Financial Information Service officers have always been very professional and helpful in negotiating retirement planning and options.”

Of course, the comments also delivered a fair share of responses indicating that Centrelink’s record was less than perfect over the past year. Here is just a small sample of what those on the other side of the argument had to say.

“Long delays to see a member of staff. Too many young people and not easy to discuss issues with them. More older staff to assist and quicker turnaround needed. No point in trying to call on the phone. Long delays.”

“[They] don’t have an understanding of the process – also takes a long time to resolve a query or simple question.”

“Centrelink lacks compassion when it comes understanding my personal situation.”

“Very slow service provider. I feel sorry for the frontline staff, but Centrelink needs to put on more staff.”

“I feel like I’m going around in circles trying to get answers from Centrelink – I’m not always sure what they mean when they do explain things and feel embarrassed to keep asking the same question.”

When the results of the YourLifeChoices survey were presented to Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen, he said:

The department is mid-way through our Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation (WPIT) programme, a business and customer-led program underpinned by replacing Centrelink’s ageing IT system with new and innovative technology. This will modernise the way the department delivers welfare services, and includes improvements for older Australians.

“For example, we’ve made it easier for couples to claim the Age Pension. Combined Age Pension forms were previously only available on paper, but couples now have the option of completing their joint application online, making it easier for customers to make their claim.

“We have recently made it easier for customers who are registered for online services to transfer from Newstart Allowance, Carers Payment and Disability Support Pension to Age Pension. These customers can complete a simple online task to confirm their details, instead of filling in a paper form.

“Nominees (including organisational nominees like financial advisors) can now claim online on behalf of the person they are acting for. Previously the individual was required to log on themselves and make a claim with the help of their nominee.

“We’ve made it easier for customers to claim online by introducing new online claims including for Pensioner Education Supplement and Disability Support Pension claims.”

Do you think Centrelink is improving? What has been your experience?

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Written by Ben

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