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

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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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RELATED LINKS

What safety measures does Centrelink have in place?

Polly wants to know what measures Centrelink has in place for visitors.

450 Centrelink call centre workers stood down after infection scare

COVID-19 call centre strife could cause Centrelink wait times to blow out.

Unanswered calls not a staffing problem: Centrelink

Technology is the problem, not staffing, says agency.

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?

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