Centrelink announced it will outsource its strained call centre to multinational services company Serco, in a three-year test program that will cost the Government $51.7 million.
This is after the Department of Human Services (DHS) already paid a whopping $474 million to Telstra in a bid to shorten waiting times.
That deal led to half of all Centrelink calls going unanswered and waiting times blowing out by another 50 per cent.
So, the DHS is again turning to the private sector for help.
Serco, is a UK company that provides “catch-all” services for governments and private companies around the world.
It has already had experience with this Government, running Australia’s immigration detention centres.
Contracting Serco means that private contractors will be taking Centrelink calls, prompting privacy concerns from welfare recipients. But Minister for Human Services Alan Tudge says that “Serco will ensure that no services or data will go offshore”.
The new contract also comes after 1200 Australians were recently ‘released’ from DHS jobs.
Community and Public Sector Union National Secretary Nadine Flood said that the contract added insult to injury to those who’d lost their jobs and will be a disaster that will put vulnerable people at risk.
“Trusting the highly sensitive needs and information handled by Centrelink staff to a private operator is scary in itself and this situation is even worse,” said Ms Flood.
“Providing Serco with even the most basic access to client records would be giving the company a frightening amount of personal information.
“Centrelink clients need real help, such as that they are given by our members who have permanent jobs in the department and, therefore, the proper training and experience to actually resolve peoples’ problems.
“A private call centre that’s designed merely to make the department’s call waiting times look better isn’t going to genuinely help anyone.”
The announcement comes hot on the heels of the Government’s rejection of the Senate inquiry’s finding that the ‘robo-debt’ payment recovery system is inherently unfair. The committee has called for the system to be suspended, but the Government has defended its program against evidence of procedural unfairness.
Do you think this is a good idea? Are you happy knowing that your details will now exist within the private sector? Or are you satisfied that the Government is doing what it can to fix a flawed system? Do you think this issue could have been averted by not dumping 1200 former DHS employees?