Services Australia using COVID-19 to transform Centrelink

Many businesses and service providers have had to make significant changes to the way they work through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Businesses that require face-to-face interaction have made the biggest changes.

Video interactions, such as those conducted through apps like Zoom, Google meet, Microsoft teams and the like, have facilitated these changes.

When visiting your doctor or lawyer; attending religious services or yoga classes; or engaging with loved ones in aged care facilities, across the country or across the road, video interactions are the new norm.

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And Services Australia is hoping this technology can continue to facilitate interactions with customers even after the pandemic.

It is trialling a new Centrelink virtual service centre in Tuggeranong with the aim of offering some services without the queues.

Not only will customers benefit from lower waiting times, but also from lower exposure to the virus.

Centrelink offices with queues out the door and around the block were a common sight. 

Centrelink offices had no choice but to move many interactions online. However, providing documents to prove identity remained an in-person job.

Read more: Centrelink staff not ‘productive for customers’, report finds

Now Centrelink can verify identity through video appointments, in the first step to incorporating this technology into more elements of service delivery.

“The pilot is seeing excellent results and it is an innovative approach to service delivery I would like to see expanded to ensure Australians can access the services they rely on, on their terms,” said government services minister Stuart Robert.

“Services Australia staff are doing an extraordinary job through a difficult period and the Virtual Service Centre pilot is an example of how staff are meeting Australians where they are to get the help they need in a COVID world.”

Customers participating in the pilot seem happy, too.

Read more: Centrelink office wait times 30 per cent longer than 2015-16

“Customers have participated in video chats from a variety of locations while they’re out and about, like in cafés or in their car,” said Julie Hockey, the national manager for Face to Face Transformation.

“People with young children and those working full time have especially appreciated the convenience of video chat. They can access the service at a time and place that suits them, saving them a visit to us in person.”

What do you think of Centrelink’s new video appointments? Would you like to see this technology rolled out across the country?

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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