Tue, 19 Mar 2024 - 22:30

NEWS.COM.AU - Data shows which Aussies are waiting the longest for their Services Australia payments

Australians across the country last year waited up to twice as long as the standard wait time for their social services claims to be processed, but the government agency says things are improving.

Data tabled by Services Australia at last month’s additional estimates revealed aged pensioners in Longreach, in rural Queensland, waited 105 days for their claims to be processed – more than double the agency’s timeliness standard of 49 days.

Around the country between July 1 and December 31 last year, age pension claims times were above the 49 day standard in all but about 30 local government areas, while claimants in Kangaroo Valley waited 111 days on average.

Disability support pensioners in Sydney’s Woollahra waited 152 days for their claims to be processed – more than two months longer than the standard of 84 days.

Meanwhile, people on Low Income Cards in Darwin waited 80.3 days on average for their claims to be processed, well above Services Australia’s standard of 28 days.

Services Australia say there are “early signs of improvement” in some claim types after the government onboarded 3000 new staff to help process claims and take calls.

But Coalition government services spokesman Paul Fletcher is demanding Labor “fix this mess and improve the agency’s performance”.

“Communities in every corner of Australia are being plagued by payment delays. Australians need these payments made fast and efficiently, but they are being processed at a snail’s pace which only adds to people’s anxiety and stress,” Mr Fletcher said.

“Bill Shorten can’t hide from these figures. No community is immune from Service’s Australia’s incompetence and it’s embarrassing. Australians deserve better.”

Mr Fletcher renewed his calls for a “root and branch review” of Services Australia’s operations “to fix this mess and improve the agency’s performance”.

Services Australia has been plagued by workforce issues for years, leading to significant call wait times, an increase in user-aborted phone calls, and the backlog in claim processing.

The Government Services Minister last November announced 3000 new staff to bolster the under-stress service.

In February, Mr Shorten asked for patience as the new recruits tackled the claims backlogs and the blowout in call wait times.

“The analogy I would use is I think human services in Australia, for the last decade, have been like one of those big ships stuck in the Suez Canal – it takes a little bit of time to turn it around,” he said last month.

He was asked for comment on the new data, which was referred on to Services Australia.

General Manager Hank Jongen acknowledged processing wait times for the millions of claims processed each year were “longer than we’d like”.

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

“We now have 3000 new staff to help process claims and take calls. They’re being comprehensively trained and are already helping with calls and claims across the board.

“They’ve processed more than 380,000 Centrelink claims and Medicare activities such as enrolments and handled almost 600,000 calls.

“We are starting to see early signs of improvement in some claim types and expect claim numbers to continue reducing over the coming months.”


Author: Ellen Ransley

This article appeared in News.com.au on 19 March 2024