Fri, 01 Mar 2024 - 13:46

Daily Telegraph - Centrelink’s massive time fail

Hundreds of thousands stuck in huge backlog

More than 133,000 Centrelink claims are failing to meet the agency’s own timeliness standards, with the latest federal Government data signalling the organisation is still facing major backlogs.

Those applying for the first time for the aged pension or a carer payment are waiting more than 49 days while another 30,000 on the lower income card are facing delays of more than 28 days.

As of December 31, more than 133,000 claims had been on hand for longer than the agency’s required standard.

The biggest chunk of the claims failing Centrelink time standards were applications for the lower income card and Jobseeker payments.

Claims for disability support and the pension also made up the poor results, with more than 18,000 disability pension claims and more than 21,000 aged pension claims failing the agency’s standards.

Coalition government services spokesman Paul Fletcher accused Labor of making the cost of living crisis worse by delaying crucial payments for the most vulnerable Australians. “Labor has made this cost of living crisis worse by failing to address the massive claims backlog at Services Australia,” Mr Fletcher said.

“Delivering welfare payments to Australians quickly and efficiently is the agency’s core job. But these figures demonstrate that Services Australia’s isn’t up to the task. Bill Shorten’s poor decision-making has exacerbated the situation, by reducing the agency’s average staffing levels and mis-managing this crucial portfolio.”

Mr Fletcher is demanding a review into Centrelink and Services Australia to get it back on track.

“Services Australia is in crisis under the Albanese Government and struggling families in need of assistance deserve better,” he said.

“I reiterate the Opposition’s call for there to be a root and branch review to get this vital agency back on track.”

At Senate Estimates this month, agency officials confirmed that there was a backlog of 1.1 million new claims across Centrelink and Medicare.

Services Australia General Manager Hank Jongen said the agency’s 3000 new staff will help process the backlog.

“We sincerely apologise to people who are waiting longer than they should be,” he said.

“We acknowledge the processing times are not where we want to be, but these new staff members will help make interacting with Government services better. Once the new staff are fully trained we expect the outstanding claim numbers to come down and this should become evident by April.”

Mr Jongen said the additional staff had already helped improve the crisis. “The new recruits have processed over 237,000 welfare claims and health activities and have answered over 400,000 calls,” he said. “We process millions of claims a year, and work hard to do these as quickly as possible. Customers can let us know if they are in hardship to help us prioritise claims.”


Author: Angira Bharadwaj

This article appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 1 March 2024