I help a lot of clients manage their Centrelink payments. The majority of people I help are Age Pensioners, part Age-Pensioners or Disability Support Pensioners. The work we do helps the clients and helps Centrelink as we pre-empt a lot of issues.
We know that Centrelink have a tough job to do, and must face extreme challenges daily, but in the last year the inefficiencies have become so ridiculous that I am calling it the worst I have ever seen. I have been working for my clients assisting them with their payment updates and claims for over 12 years now – the current situation is appalling.
Now this is not an attack on the staff on the ground or the staff in general. This is a commentary on the systems and processes, the people funding the system and the way the Department of Human Services is being managed and Centrelink obviously underfunded at the moment.
When you have elderly people having their age pensions cut off arbitrarily because “their documents weren’t received” – DESPITE the documents being sent back or uploaded to their system and just sitting in a queue for many, many, many weeks? There is clearly an Efficiency issue. A staff member then has to deal with a complaint and fix the issue urgently so the age pensioner can eat. We even have a client who loses age pension regularly because documents aren’t returned, BUT the request for documents is never actually sent to her in the first place (this has happened repeatedly).
When you have Centrelink staff telling you that if you upload a document you also need to call them, because the system doesn’t notify that documents have been received, you clearly have a Systems issue.
When you then upload the document, and call and wait on hold for 2 hours to tell them you have done what you have been asked to do following the systems they want you to use? You have a Process issue.
When you try to call, as the Government Minister’s and Centrelink staff tell you to do, and the phone number is just engaged for hours on end? You have a Funding issue.
When you finally get through to someone after trying numerous times and waiting and waiting, and they can’t actually help you, because you have come through to the “overflow” line? You have a Training issue.
When an elderly dementia sufferer in her late 70’s living in a regional area gives up driving for safety, and her partner lodges a claim for Carer Allowance so they can pay for taxis to get to her doctor’s appointments; but is still waiting for the claim to be even looked at 6 months later? You have a Community issue. We have been told the wait time in the processing queue for this claim is a minimum of 6-8 months. In the meantime, she is isolated, stressed, and struggling. Will she die before the claim is processed?
When you have disabled clients who update their situation with Centrelink, but it takes 5 months for them to make the changes so they incur a large debt (even though it is Centrelink’s delay that caused it)? And they don’t know how they can repay the debt? You have an Ethical issue.
The cost of the inefficiency is not just financial. People get very stressed when they can’t pay for things. It is worse for them when they haven’t done anything wrong and don’t understand why it has happened. The cost to the community well-being is priceless.
Centrelink staff must be copping it badly at the moment. We are copping it too. Someone has to fix this, or we will just incur higher and higher costs to the Economy over time due to the stuff-ups.
We are the lucky country. When someone follows the rules and has a genuine entitlement to our back-up welfare system, they should at least be able to use the system.
Authorised Representative of Aon Hewitt Financial Advice Limited
Authorised Representative No. 290343
Aon Hewitt Financial Advice ABN 13 091 225 642 AFSL No. 239183
This information may be regarded as general advice. That is, your personal objectives, needs or financial situations were not taken into account when preparing this information. Accordingly, you should consider the appropriateness of any general advice we have given you, having regard to your own objectives, financial situation and needs before acting on it. Where the information relates to a particular financial product, you should obtain and consider the relevant product disclosure statement before making any decision to purchase that financial product.