Many Australian seniors have been forced to go without the Age Pension due to the overwhelming and complex Centrelink application process, a recent report has indicated.
According to a joint study by the National Seniors Australia (NSA) and Retirement Essentials the challenges faced, including long phone wait times and confusing online applications, have left much of the population feeling frustrated at the Department of Human Services program.
While many people have previously expressed their discontent with Centrelink, the report has proved there is a major problem that needs to be addressed.
Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly, the number one complaint made by respondents is the Centrelink call centre with 95 per cent of people reporting they were dissatisfied with the service received.
Others found the overall time to actually get through the application process the most frustrating thing of all.
However, most shockingly a total of 88 per cent of people said they were dissatisfied with the application forms and processes and some even gave up applying because it was too hard.
With the study identified as the first independent research into the issues, Retirement Essentials founder and chief executive officer Paul Rogan said the real scale of the problem has now properly been revealed.
“In a country like Australia where people have worked hard and paid taxes their whole life, it’s simple not fair that government makes it hard to apply for the age pension,” he said.
“I was surprised by how widespread this problem is. If the survey data is reflective of the whole community, then based on demographic trends over 153,000 Australian seniors each year are having a negative experience when applying for the pension.”
In April this year, the Federal Government revealed a further 1,000 people would be hired for the Centrelink call centre to keep up with the heavy demand and ensure quicker response times.
However, complaints against the service have remain high.
The Department of Human Services, which oversees the welfare system and Centrelink, says it’s working on improving online services so people won’t have to call through at all.
The department’s general manager Hank Jongen told Starts at 60 that Centrelink was committed to improving its interactions with those applying for welfare benefits such as the pension.
“The new online claim process ensures claims contain all the information needed, so they can be processed as quickly as possible,” he said.
“We understand online options are not for everyone, and we are committed to improving people’s experience when dealing with us by be it by phone, face-to-face or digitally.”
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