CENTRELINK problems are a vicious cycle as phone wait times increase and website issues worsen, according to the Greens.
Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said she had been advocating for income support for about 11 years, and that problems with Centrelink had worsened dramatically in the past two years.
“We’re constantly getting complaints and it’s really escalated recently,” Ms Siewert said. “A third of the calls last year were unanswered or people couldn’t even get through, or if they did get through they ended up waiting and just got cut off.”
In a public bid to prove that wait times were out of control, the Greens staged a stunt outside the Victoria Park Centrelink this month.
Setting up beanbags and armed with snacks and water, the participants were prepared to wait for hours.
Two people gave themselves over to the cause and spent over two hours attempting to make it through the Centrelink phone lines.
Both had limited success; one caller tried over 80 times and another tried over 110 times.
“People are getting frustrated by this every day. It’s about the system, not the people who are trying to help them,” Ms Siewert said.
“The government says ‘it’s going to get better because people can go online through my gov site and get better support’.
“But we know that’s not going to work because the IT system isn’t up to scratch and it’ll cost a lot of money to fix it.
“But they’re still driving people towards it, and the IT infrastructure |isn’t there yet.”
But Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen said the department was committed to providing quality services to thousands of people accessing Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support services daily.
“The vast majority of our customers complete their business with us without issue; however we are committed to addressing areas of concern, including access to services,” Mr Jongen said.
“The department has a number of key pieces of work underway to reduce call wait times and improve customer service.”
Mr Jongen said the department was currently hiring an additional 1665 staff for contact centres to help manage and reduce the wait times on Centrelink phonelines.