Services Australia hits back at claims of slow COVID-19 wait times

Services Australia GM says performance ‘best it’s been in five years’.

hank jongen

Services Australia has responded to reports that Centrelink phone wait times could blow out after call centre contractor Serco shut down its Mill Park call centre earlier this month.

Services Australia has hit back, claiming some of the information being presented in the media doesn’t accurately reflect the current performance of its services, or the customer experience.

“Services Australia is an essential service delivering key coronavirus support measures to communities across the nation,” Services Australia general manager Hank Jongen told YourLifeChoices.

“We continue to take every possible step to support Australians as quickly as possible during this time.”

While Serco, who provides contracted services to Services Australia, closed their Mill Park site after a small number of their staff tested positive to COVID-19, Services Australia doesn’t believe it has had a negative impact on call wait times.

“Our services weren’t affected by the closure of this site as our call centre network spans across the nation, including thousands of additional staff taking calls and processing claims as part of our coronavirus response,” said Mr Jongen.

Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services granted approval to reopen the Mill Park site on Wednesday and staff are progressively returning to their workforce, he added.

“We’ve not only coped with the recent surge in demand due to COVID-19, our performance against call wait times and claim processing targets is now the best it’s been in five years.

“We have also removed call blocking on our phone lines, making it easier for people to reach us.

“Where possible we encourage people to do their business using online services. This includes reporting income, uploading documents, claiming payments or telling us about a change in their circumstances. We have upgraded myGov capacity to accommodate the surge in demand.”

Mr Jongen also said myGov has remained stable throughout the tax time peak and says in Victoria, people have already been shifting to online and phone channels, in place of visiting our service centres.

“Despite a significant increase in people needing to access our services, the number of people visiting our service centres across Victoria has halved compared to the same time last year,” he said.

Services Australia is certainly doing admirable work in the face of adversity.

Some YourLifeChoices members agree with Services Australia’s performance assessment.

“What waiting times are these?" wrote YourLifeChoices member Hawkeye.

“I had reason to call Centrelink a number of times on both Friday and Monday, and in every case I needed to talk to an actual person. The longest wait time of all the calls was about two minutes. And two of the calls on Monday were connected immediately with no waiting at all.”

“I've visited a Centrelink centre three times in the past ten days and I've never got through quicker,” wrote inextratime. “No queues and fast response.”

However, some older Australians have expressed frustration with the phone and online service and have resorted to archaic methods for satisfaction.

“I tried to ring a contact number for Medicare, and the message said they were unable to take any calls – goodbye,” wrote YourLifeChoices member older and wiser.

“Most messages say ‘go to your myGov page’. The reason I am trying to ring is because the page does not go anywhere near answering my query. Not all queries follow their written response guidelines. Cannot contact my email. Only way to contact them was to send a written snail-mail letter by post.”

How does your experience with Services Australia rate? Do you agree that these services have improved?

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    To make a comment, please register or login
    31st Jul 2020
    Is it actually better or is that what his lower level managers are telling him.
    31st Jul 2020
    Every time I phone the seniors line I am lucky if the wait time is less than 15 minutes, often closer to 40! Then if my question does not follow a simple script Q and A it often means the operator can’t answer the question.

    The service May be better but it is still appalling.
    31st Jul 2020
    Services Australia. Someone should tell Hank to argue for another change of name: Interrogation Australia. Some of them are amongst the rudest, slackest, unkind personnel found on this earth. Of course public servants mostly come from the cabbage family but even a garden variety cabbage wouldn't treat older people like dirt - as we so often hear about.
    Big Kev
    31st Jul 2020
    Hank Jongren could be used on a farm, he spreads so much fertiliser. I know of people who have waited hours to get through. Something like getting a CRN so people can claim for first time get a 'we have your number and will ring back as soon as possible, ' usually the next day!
    And why the hell does this Govt iinsist on using Serco after it was shown what a disaster they were on the offshore refugee camp management. Are they Big Liberal party donors?
    31st Jul 2020
    Have no problem with Centrelink, had to visit the office 2 weeks ago for a stamp on a proof-of-life certificate for the overseas pension (once a year occurrence). The office was mostly empty and I finished my business within 7 minutes.
    31st Jul 2020
    Have tried to access the centrelink website for is not working. After signing into mygov, the centrelink goes blank. Absolutely is that better?.
    Have to visit a service centre to get service.
    verenice coffee
    31st Jul 2020
    23 march submitted application for pension 2 april application being processed 3 and 6 april more detail required 8 april 1st payment in bank
    submitted my carers application on 17.7 was told should have answer by 3/8 26/7 notified application approved 31/7 first payment in bank
    dont consider that slow
    verenice coffee
    31st Jul 2020
    tried phone when first out of work battery on phone went dead went to office stood in cue got inn given my number shown what to do and had no problem
    31st Jul 2020
    I'm rolling around the floor laughing! Perhaps if Mr Hank tells himself that enough times, he gets to believe it. I needed to get hold of Medicare for an unusual query. Of course, the prompts offered didn't help, I got onto one section who couldn't help, so they transferred me to another area. A recorded message said they were unable to answer any queries. Just says to go to Mygov, end up going round in circles. That was it. You cannot even contact them via email.
    Wait times shortened? - I can't even get them to answer the phone. I have had to write a snail-mail letter to them with my query.
    Karl Marx
    31st Jul 2020
    The only fix is to scrap the current broken complex system & replace it with a universal pension for all over 65
    verenice coffee
    31st Jul 2020
    and here was i happy working up to middle march half way to 73 when the 500 rule came and all show workers were out of work and tried getting job search didnt want pension
    31st Jul 2020
    We must under stand public servants can lie all they want and think nothing of it don't forget they work for our government could not get better teachers
    3rd Aug 2020
    Honk Jongen job is smooth things over and make centerstink a real nice place and he reckons he is a government official, gawd help us.

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