Regular complaints about excessive call wait times have plagued Centrelink for months, now the government has announced the creation of 1,500 new jobs in a bid to try and improve the experience of customers.
In April it was revealed that more than 33 million calls went unanswered last year when people phoned the welfare branch for assistance with their benefits and payments, such as the Age Pension and carer’s allowance, triggering the introduction of 1,000 new call centre jobs at the time.
Speaking on Wednesday, Minister for Human Services Michael Keenan revealed that the department will now hire a further 1,500 contractors which he said will help Centrelink to “deal with surges in demand”.
“Centrelink answers about 1 million calls a week and getting through on the phone can sometimes be difficult, especially at periods of high demand,” he said.
The new contracts have been awarded to four private-sector providers: Serco, who will create jobs at their Victorian call centres and Stellar Asia Pacific, Concentrix Services and DataCom Connect will create jobs based in Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide. The new contracts are in addition to the 1,000 contract staff announced earlier this year, and 250 extra call centre operators who were hired through a pilot program with Serco.
Keenan added: “Our investment in these 2,750 staff will greatly enhance our ability to answer more calls and ensure that the service we deliver is in line with customer expectations.”
“The Serco pilot demonstrated that working with a service delivery partner is an efficient and effective way to flexibly meet the needs of our customers. Those staff have already answered more than 2 million calls and have helped reduce busy signals on Centrelink phone lines by almost 20 per cent.”
Centrelink is already under-resourced and understaffed. Income support is complex, which is why Centrelink should have permanent, full-time staff that are properly equipped to manage and assist with these issues.
— Julie Collins (@JulieCollinsMP) August 8, 2018
However the announcement was met with criticism from some of Keenan’s fellow pollies, with Labor MP Julie Collins slamming the decision to hire contractors, as opposed to full time staff.
“Centrelink is already under-resourced and understaffed,” she said. “Income support is complex, which is why Centrelink should have permanent, full-time staff that are properly equipped to manage and assist with these issues.
“The outsourced Centrelink call centre jobs announced today by the Turnbull Government will again go to mainland cities – Tasmania appears to have been missed out completely.”