More staff to help ease Centrelink call woes

Government to hire 1000 new staff to help ease call woes.

Plan C to cut Centrelink wait times

The wait times when you attempt to call Centrelink are notoriously bad – and have been for years.

Last October, the Federal Government sought to ease the pain by contracting multinational services company Serco in a three-year test program budgeted to cost $51.7 million.

That was after the Department of Human Services (DHS) had paid Telstra $474 million in an unsuccessful bid to shorten waiting times. That tactic appeared to solve nothing, with half of all Centrelink calls still going unanswered and wait times continuing to blow out.

The latest strategy?

The Federal Government is promising to hire another 1000 call centre operators – in Australia – at an estimated cost of around $200 million, although the contract is yet to be put out to tender.

Human Services Minister Michael Keenan says wait times for customers are too long and change is needed.

“We want to make sure that when you deal with the Government, you get the best possible service,” he said.

The Australian Taxation Office has been using private companies for the past decade for their call centre operations (and that) has been very successful. That's one of the sensible things the Labor Party did when they were in Government.

"There is no reason why private operators can't do it as efficiently as permanent staff and we've trialled this with the 250 people [who] we've already employed … and we've had independent evaluations done that show this is an effective way to enhance our service delivery.”

Mr Keenan said the extra staff would be hired for three years because after that it is hoped more Centrelink customers would have ditched the phone in favour of their computers.

"Over time, I hope that our digital channels will get a lot better so people will go online; we are investing heavily to make that happen," he said on the ABC news website.

"But in the meantime we are putting this very big investment into extra call centre capacity and people calling in will notice a far better experience."

Labor MP Linda Burney told the ABC’s AM program that privacy was an "enormous concern", a criticism Mr Keenan rubbished, saying no client data would be sent overseas.

Ms Burney said: "The Government is plugging a hole, and that hole will eventually overflow again.

"Centrelink is absolutely on its knees. What the Government would be better off doing is making the 42 per cent of Centrelink staff who are casualised, permanent."

Have you been left on hold for a lengthy time when trying to contact Centrelink? Did the service improve after Serco staff were added?

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    COMMENTS

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    bobm
    24th Apr 2018
    10:19am
    great idea. we can all get our computers fixed at the same time at the one shop from Centrelink
    johnp
    24th Apr 2018
    10:40am
    And when your private financial info is out there with external companies where does that info end up. All around the world probably !!
    bluebottle
    24th Apr 2018
    11:00am
    For the first time, I phoned the age pension number recently, with a 25 minute delay forecast, which is what it took. Not as bad as I expected.
    HarrysOpinion
    24th Apr 2018
    2:46pm
    But, if you had a pre-paid mobile phone it would have cost you approx $30 to wait the 25 minutes.
    Not good enough!
    Kathleen
    24th Apr 2018
    3:03pm
    Why would a call cost you $30? All my calls are included in that amount a month plus internet included as well.
    HarrysOpinion
    24th Apr 2018
    3:12pm
    On a pre-paid they charge per minute of usage which depletes your pre-paid credit. One person waited 30 minutes and then got a message from his telco server that his credit run out and the person was cut off.
    Perhaps, you can share with us, which Telco you are with and whether you are on pre-paid or a plan?
    fearlessfly
    24th Apr 2018
    5:23pm
    Reply to HS - for goodness sake mate, go to www.vaya.net.au and check out their offerings, you don't need to pay more than $16 per month for unlimited calls. Been with them for the past 3-4 years, no worries at all.
    HarrysOpinion
    25th Apr 2018
    12:38pm
    fearlessfly, thanks for that I am checking them out...Noticed that they an Optus affiliate...but yes it looks very attractive...for how long?
    Knows-a-lot
    24th Apr 2018
    11:29am
    If this government is behind it, it's bound to fail. Serco are a disaster waiting to happen.
    HarrysOpinion
    24th Apr 2018
    2:51pm
    The login access to myGov online by way of a sms security number has improved dramatically, it's almost instant response now. Before this, one had to wait for up to 2 hours! (Telstra's service?)
    Rae
    24th Apr 2018
    11:43am
    The Government needs to work out exactly how many people we actually have in Australia before making any sort of plans. They have been quoting 24 million for years now while bringing in 300 000 immigrants, 600 000+ various visa holders, 300 000 new births and failing to add this new million or so a year to the tally.
    Cowboy Jim
    25th Apr 2018
    11:03am
    It is estimated that there are about 50'000 illegals roaming around Australia. A compulsory national identity card like in other countries would sort that out and at the same time Rae's question about the total population could be resolved as well. Never ceases to amaze me at election day one just have to state a name and address without photo ID to cast a vote.
    ancal
    24th Apr 2018
    11:52am
    Really, the real picture with Centrelink is coming from the Ministers in charge or who should be in charge, whether they are from this Government or the past Governments. When an aged Pensioner or someone on benefits from Centrelink tries to ring them and maybe they are trying to tell Centrelink that they have made a mistake, they give up because of the wait or no answer. Then they receive a letter of abuse and if they don't pay it back, get charged interest. They, the recipient may have told a small lie or didn't understand the questions, but we have Ministers, who tell lies about the wait time and don't even get pulled over the coals and corrected. They should loose their jobs!
    floss
    24th Apr 2018
    11:56am
    Privatise by stealth just another Liberal failure in the making.C.Link is a complex issue the person you speak has to be able to give accurate advice it is not just about answering a phone.
    floss
    24th Apr 2018
    12:02pm
    Why Michael Keenan have I been waiting for 5 months for a answer to 8 letters.I have been advised the have all been received at C.Link head office.
    Sundays
    24th Apr 2018
    12:08pm
    Well, on Monday my husband’s part pension did not go into the bank account. Waited for 30 mins on the phone to sort it out, but he did get through. He was told that it would be looked into and someone would call him today. That is exactly what happened. A Centrelink error which has been fixed and money will be there by Thursday. I think that was good service even if the mistake shouldn’t have been made in the first place
    Rae
    24th Apr 2018
    12:52pm
    How do you suddenly not pay someone money due?

    There would be fr less problems if we all got the aged pension and then paid tax as usual to the ATO.

    The ATO make some mistakes but nothing like the Centrelink fiascos.

    The ATO also manage to answer phones in a reasonable time.
    Sundays
    24th Apr 2018
    2:44pm
    Because the right hand don’t know what the left hand is doing. You speak to someone, someone else processes incorrectly without reading the notes. Bingo errors. I don’t blame the staff because the model never allows one person to deal with the problem there and then, or see it through to completion. They are also very understaffed and not always well trained
    TREBOR
    24th Apr 2018
    12:15pm
    "There is no reason why private operators can't do it as efficiently as permanent staff "

    So why bother paying double for the same service? DUH!
    johnp
    24th Apr 2018
    12:18pm
    what about my point above though. "And when your private financial info is out there with external companies where does that info end up. All around the world probably !!"
    Rae
    24th Apr 2018
    1:04pm
    Yes john. There is big money being made in data sales as well as contracts to Governments spending other people's money.

    Private operators are proving to be less efficient and more expensive than permanent staff.

    The added disadvantage is the millions in profit going to overseas investors.

    No wonder the Balance of Payments is a disaster.
    TREBOR
    24th Apr 2018
    1:11pm
    To me it is an absolute travesty and a dereliction of duty for any government to even consider that private information given in confidence to it by those who employ that government - is somehow a gold mine to sell on the open market.

    Quite frankly - how dare they - and what a clear sign that is of the kind of 'government' we are forced to endure these days.

    As for privatisation - forget it.... never worked yet and never will.

    First The Guv'nah rand down Centrelink, thus creating an artificial 'need' to 'fill the gaps' - and then opened the door with a big smile and a fat cheque book to its mates.

    The Trebor Government will abolish this kind of behaviour instantly... not questions asked and no compensation given.

    You're resumed!
    Old Man
    24th Apr 2018
    2:00pm
    Think it through Bob, reduction in the Public Service gives any government room to boast about how they have saved taxpayers money by "trimming the fat". Hiring outside contractors is off balance sheet under the heading of Contractors and Consultants. Nobody ever questions money spent on contracts won by tender and consultants are too mysterious for the average person to care about.
    GeorgeM
    25th Apr 2018
    12:13am
    Privatisation is a disaster here. One Liberal Minister destroys the department's workforce and another then pretends to make a temporary bandaid solution.
    If they had sense, at least they should make Age Pension Universal, and then they don't need a large number of Centrelink staff! Big Budget benefits!
    patti
    24th Apr 2018
    12:18pm
    That's a fine idea, and staffed by people within Australia? that's good, I will be able to understand them too. However, "it is expected" that in the next three years we will all ditch our phone contact in favour of our computers??? I think not. Certainly until my internet access, iffy at the best of times, is sorted out. But there are no guarantees. I have two words for Centrelink....CUSTOMER SERVICE. there are always times when I need to speak to an actual person, and should not have to travel miles to a Centrelink office to do so.
    Jacks
    24th Apr 2018
    12:34pm
    Lets not forget that this government cut near a thousand public servant jobs at Centrelink over the last two years with disastrous consequences to the public. Then spent millions of dollars on consultants and are now hiring private contractors like Serco -an organisation that runs gaols and been in the paper for all of the wrong reasons to deal with Australia's most vulnerable.
    Rae
    24th Apr 2018
    1:11pm
    I think the Australian Government is actually working for the multinational corporations. They seem to sell taxpayer assets , sack Australian public servants and then pay twice the price to overseas operators all the while moaning about the budget while millions of dollars are earned by foreigners.

    They even sign trade agreements that let the private foreign operators bring in foreign staff.

    Selling the country out used to be called treason in more sensible times.
    GrayComputing
    24th Apr 2018
    12:59pm
    A very costly move and I suspect the disbanded Manus Island team will now politely answer the phones (hah)!
    Below is my simple plan: Send to everyone you know.
    >>>>>>
    Dear PM MPs and senators

    It is time for the government (and for all of us to rant at them) to take action for human decency and a huge stress reduction for pensioners

    NO ASSET TEST FOR A PENSION EVERV AGAIN!
    A pension is not welfare.

    For the retired and retiring people in your electorate do you think they really look forward and want 100++ visits to/from Centrelink and be part of 3 million waiting queues and lost calls?

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

    As an MP do you 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?

    As a MP you even stand to lose your chance at being part of the government unless all these criminal asset tests for a pension are dropped now.

    NO ASSET TEST FOR A PENSION EVER AGAIN!
    Rae
    24th Apr 2018
    1:15pm
    Let's not forget income too. Some poor people bought annuities before the rules changed to deny them the part pension they were promised. The can't get out of it either. At least annuity sales are probably falling now. Just another unforeseen consequence of Hockey's disastrous budget.

    NO ASSET OR INCOME TEST FOR A PENSION EVER AGAIN. Like the rest of the civilised world.
    Cowboy Jim
    25th Apr 2018
    11:18am
    Agree with all that: no asset and income test for a pension of over 65 year olds (like you said in other civilised countries) But tax will have to be paid on all income and these civilised countries also mostly have asset taxes (not very high) but with a house of $2million it mounts up. Always hear about universal pensions but the negatives are never mentioned. There also tax deductable expenses like mortgage interest rates, council rates, repairs to your own place but at the end there is a capital gains tax (on your own home too). Look at all pos and negs. People here would not like a system where one pays in all his life and if he's not getting past 65 he will never get a cent. That is how a universal pension works. My Mum has hers for 33 years and her brother only 12 months. Some never make it past 60.
    Rae
    25th Apr 2018
    4:49pm
    Yes Cowboy. The tax system needs sorting out. Income should be taxed and so should capital gain less inflation and costs. The halving of capital gain was not necessary at all.

    The money grab at superannuation by taxing at the beginning and all the way through distorts compounding which was supposed to be the main idea of compulsory superannuation in the first place.

    Other countries have inheritance taxes to deal with as well.
    inextratime
    24th Apr 2018
    1:54pm
    One way to produce a healthy unemployment stat is to complicate a system within govt then employ as many people as possible to overcome the problems. While Centrelink is a federal dept. I read last week that Queensland now has 230,000 public servants for a population of 4.7million.
    Adrianus
    24th Apr 2018
    2:01pm
    You can add another 12,000 to that in 12 months.
    Rae
    24th Apr 2018
    3:23pm
    How would they know how many people there are? They apparently have no idea about anything much at all.

    230 000 isn't many when you consider nurses, teachers, firefighters, SES, police, regulators, toll inspectors, transport workers and all the add ons for the State and Local Governments.

    Rather than flinging money to overseas companies we would be better off employing more locals in public service as much as that aggravates the envious who believe the MSM nonsense about how "good" public servants get it.
    Clampett
    24th Apr 2018
    2:00pm
    When my low income healthcare card failed to arrive i contacted Centrelink using my COMPUTER, using the online contact facility asking where it was or why they had cancelled it.
    I did this twice even doing the calculation using the deeming rate to arrive at my income for them. -No answer. So i go to my local Centrelink Office to try and get an explanation .Met with blank faces and a women who didnt know what the deeming rate was used for. Even with all my share certificates and bank statements she told me i had too much money. I left after a frustrating encounter with inexperienced staff.
    My next attempt was a letter to the Centrelink and Medicare Complaints section to find out why they had cancelled my Low income health care card and again doing the deeming rate calculation for them.
    Still no contact from them. So i frustration i called them, knowing i would be in for a long wait. After an hour some one answered my call. I got that much of a shock i nearly fell off my chair. Again they told me i had too much money telling me the one million Newcrest Mining shares i had was too much. I told her if i had $20,000000 worth of NCM shares i would be living on my luxury yacht in the Bahamas ,not asking for a low income health care card. When it was all sorted out they talked to their supervisor who apologised and said i would be fast tracked and would receive my card in 4 days. Im still waiting.
    johnp
    24th Apr 2018
    2:09pm
    is million NCM shares worth $20M ? no wonder they wont give a healthcare card !! still waiting after how many days ?
    Old Man
    24th Apr 2018
    2:06pm
    First we have been bombarded with ACTU ads crying about CEO's earning millions with the woman living in a darkened room wondering why she is now a casual. Now we get a glimpse of what Labor will be lying about at the next election with Burney moaning about casuals becoming permanent.

    I use the accusation of "lying" with some thought. The truth about the casual workforce is that the percentage of casuals is about 20% of the workforce and this percentage has been constant for over 20 years. There are many jobs which are only available to a casual workforce and there are also many people who are very happy to be a part of the casual workforce. I note that the woman in the ad has purportedly been sign ed on by a labour hire company and it's ironic that the Rudd family became millionaires because of owning labor hire companies.
    Adrianus
    24th Apr 2018
    2:08pm
    55 million calls unanswered??
    Is it even possible that we have that many Centrelink customers?
    My guess is around 12 million Australians are on welfare. If each one phoned 6 times per year that and didn't get through that would account for it ??
    Rae
    24th Apr 2018
    3:48pm
    Guess is right. Nobody has a rat's razoo as to the numbers of population now in Australia.
    MD
    24th Apr 2018
    2:09pm
    Allowing for my hasty math addition of ALL categories Dept Human Services clients, I make the total number in excess of 4M.
    I'll stick my neck out to say that almost everybody receiving a social benefit suffers from , to some varying degree, some form of selfish introspection,ie, 'it's all about ME'.

    Whereas YLC 'bloggers' principal concerns centre around most everything relevant to age pension entitlement(s) the DHS deals with many and varied payment recipients, all of whom expect instant attention the moment somebody bursts their bubble - particularly if it's some gubbermint prick !

    The idea that retirement lends endless opportunities to sit back, relax and go with lifes' flow would seem totally erroneous if the claims of some of the regular comments herein are indicative. Instant attention, satisfaction only on your terms, some one on standby to field your gripes, worries and woes...and woe betide em if they fail to produce a clear, concise and comprehensive answer.

    I wonder how many folk stop to consider that the phone backlog may have reached the presently unacceptable level due to the sheer number of those expecting an instant hearing and a quick fix ? Does the sheer volume of backlog numbers suggest we've become such a miserable band of desperadoes unable to exist for more than a day or two without someone to pick on ?

    Personal experience has taught me; on occassion when phone contact with DHS is necessary, to register for a call-back and without fail, this has eventuated in the fullness of time. Time - the key factor in which we should strive to enjoy a relaxing retirement... gotta go, the phones' ringing!
    Clampett
    24th Apr 2018
    2:30pm
    John p - i am still dumfounded as to why they changed my 2400 Newcrest Mining shares to
    1,000,000. I can just imagine the laugh they all had about me trying to claim a Low Income Health Care card if i had $20,000,000 worth of Newcrest Mining shares. Somebody should be hauled over the coals for this mistake and why nobody bothered to contact me to explain the reason why i was refused.
    HarrysOpinion
    24th Apr 2018
    2:42pm
    This Liberal government has been itching to privatise this, that and the other. They failed with Medicare so this was plan B.
    They paid Telstra $474 million. WHAT A WASTE OF TAX PAYERS MONEY!
    The current Coalition government has 106 seats including senators. Each one needs to contribute $4.48 million out of their own pockets to recover the wastage of the public purse funds spent on Telstra's non-service productivity in regards to Centrelink's objective of providing a better service, or get the $474 million back from Telstra for their failures.
    The management and financial spending decision making of this government is reprehensible. Fire the lot NOW!
    Rae
    24th Apr 2018
    3:53pm
    Selling Telstra was one of the most stupid things they did in the first place.
    ancal
    24th Apr 2018
    10:15pm
    HS You don't seem to understand that the problem is not just one Government, this stuff up has been happening for many years and all Governments are hopeless at trying to fix the problem. I did tax for 35 years and this sort of thing has been happening since we had a Government. Talk about the Centrelink problem not the politicians or politicak views!
    HarrysOpinion
    24th Apr 2018
    10:55pm
    ancal. "this stuff up has been happening for many years"

    Oh, I see, so that makes it alright then, ay? (NOT!)
    Centrelink problems were created by this government and Telstra failed to deliver but kept the money.

    Under Labor's administration I didn't have wait longer than 10 minutes for Centrelink to answer a phone call BUT if they couldn't they provided the service of a call back. All of that disappeared under the Coalition government.

    But, OK , hang on ...let's blame..the accountants who have been witnessing this sort of thing happening since we had government and done nothing about it. No?
    What about the homeless Joe Blow? It must be his fault.

    Give us a break ancal .Of course it is about the politicians who have proven that they as the elected government can not manage except to pass the buck to private service providers who may or may not deliver as in the Telstra example, at a huge wasted cost to the public purse. So far the government have spent half a billion on non-productive service. This sure helps to bring the deficit down doesn't it?
    Jilly B
    24th Apr 2018
    7:28pm
    Regarding Centrelink, I phoned their support line on the weekend and the female who answered the call stated that there were only 500 staff for 20,000 customers! I told her none of the options were suitable and that all they needed to do was to give customers under 100 words a message section on My Gov to advise them they had earned a few dollars. She told me this was not possible and I had to type a word document and upload it, or call on the phone or visit a centre personally and wait for hours as one cannot make an appointment. What a waste of time!
    Rae
    25th Apr 2018
    4:59pm
    A friends father, on a part pension, trades shares for extra income. He sends a word document detailing changes off to Centrelink every evening. Imagine if everyone did that. Haha.
    Charlie
    24th Apr 2018
    8:49pm
    I hope we are not going to get the indian call centre solution.
    HarrysOpinion
    24th Apr 2018
    11:15pm
    I like a lot of Indian people from the Sub-Continent, Many are very decent people and many speak perfectly with an English accent.
    However, tonight's conversation with a Telco provider went beyond toleration as the call centre person spoke with such a heavy Indian accent that it was impossible to have a reasonable conversation. That is not fair. That is very frustrating. No communication with a call center should be so excruciating. If the Telco cared about customer service in an English speaking world then we'd all be happy little vegemites. But, obviously they don't.
    Robjac
    27th Apr 2018
    2:32pm
    I worked for DSS then Centrelink for 30 years and I can say without a shadow of doubt that 1000 extra staff will not help.
    Why? Because additional staff, be it 1000 or 10,000, will NOT receive adequate training.
    Poor and insufficient training has been the problem for the past 15 years, and it shows.
    DHS is driven by stats. Stats that have nothing to do with client service or satisfaction. Rather stats that purportedly show turnover and time efficiencies.
    Centrelink/DHS policy is "Get 'em off the phone, or Get 'em out of the office, as quickly as possible. Whether they have been given the correct, or for that matter any, information at all". 'Churning' is a description that comes to mind.
    What % of these new staff will be in non contact supervisory positions?
    Hopefully I'm wrong, doubt it though.
    ancal
    27th Apr 2018
    10:31pm
    That all makes sense to me having done taxation for 35 years and lots of time seeing bad decisions mage by Centrelink people and having to send the Client back to discuss the problem again. We don't have the trained people in Centrelink and some of them can be so arrogant because they work in a place they think nobody can touch them.


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