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Labor criticised as data shows Centrelink, Medicare payment processing times blown out - News.com.au
Processing times for Centrelink and Medicare claims are blowing out, causing “unnecessary stress and angst” among customers, the Coalition says.
After being lashed for failing to answer “basic questions” during last month’s Senate estimates and a litany of reported shortcomings at the agency, Services Australia returned for another day of grilling by senators on Tuesday.
It was there the agency tabled data that confirmed millions of claims weren’t being processed within the agency’s own timeliness frames.
Each payment type has its own timeliness rate, as identified in the latest Services Australia annual report.
The data reveals 53 per cent of high risk setting pandemic payments – which are ideally processed within two days – took longer than that.
More than 655,000 disaster recovery payment and allowances claims took longer than two days to process, accounting for about 40 per cent of all claims.
While more than 70 per cent of age pension claims were processed within the 49 day window, 61,813 claims took longer.
The data was tabled a day after Government Services Minister Bill Shorten announced an additional 3000 staff would be hired as part of a $228m boost to help Services Australia deal with call wait times.
Overall, the last annual report revealed the rate of social security and welfare claimed processed within the time frame was 74.8 per cent in the 2022-23 financial year, down from 81.7 per cent the year before.
Processing times for health claims was down from 84.5 per cent to 68.7 per cent.
Opposition spokesperson for government services Paul Fletcher said the figures were a “shocking reminder” of Services Australia’s inability to support Australians, especially during the current cost of living crisis.
“Struggling families need a first class customer experience, with payments processed quickly and without delay,” Mr Fletcher said.
“What they are instead experiencing is an incompetent agency that operates in a sloth-like mode.
“Government Services Minister Bill Shorten is failing to drive an efficient customer responsive organisation.
“Australians deserve a minister who will go into bat for them every day, rather than sit on the sidelines.
“Processing delays cause unnecessary stress and angst among customers.”
Services Australia has been under mounting pressure in recent months after it revealed it issued 2.8 million busy messages to callers in two months, and answered less than a quarter of calls made to the agency over July and August 2023.
On Monday, Mr Shorten said staff numbers at Services Australia was at its lowest level in history, and blamed the former Coalition government for reducing the workforce.
“Right now in Australia, we have the lowest number of people on the frontline doing our safety net payment system compared to the population of Australia,” he said.
“We’re now turning that around with 3000 extra people. That’ll include direct people to process payments, it’ll include people to answer phones.
“It will take a little while to get to the 3000. We recognise that Australians have been frustrated by call wait times and payment processing times.
“This is not going to change overnight, but this is a significant … set of reinforcements to help Australians cope with cost of living by making sure that their payments money is done properly, accurately, and quickly.”
Author: Ellen Ransley
This article appeared in News.com.au on 8 November 2023