Centrelink blocked 22 million of our phone calls last year 158



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If you’ve tried to get through to Centrelink on the phone in the past year, you’ve no doubt heard the infuriating tolling of what you assume is an engaged line.

But as a senate hearing heard on Thursday night, that bleep-bleep-bleep is more likely to signal that your call has actually been blocked.

The Senate Estimates Committee heard that Centrelink has “blocked” more than 22 million calls during 2014-2015, a significant jump up from the 13 million calls blocked in the previous year.

The department blocks calls when the wait times are too long in an effort to manage the service and reduce wait times.

Representatives from the Department of Human Services told the committee that the reason so many more calls were blocked was because people were using smartphone apps that dial repeatedly until they get a line and into the queue to speak to someone.

These apps are typically used to buy concert tickets and nab other limited-offer deals.

DHS official Grant Tidswell said, “It’s always a trade-off…trying to manage the workload and demand and the challenge between demand and supply.”

He said in previous years the number of blocked calls had actually been higher, in excess of 30 million, and that Centrelink was continuing to direct callers to use the website or apps instead of the telephones.

Greens senator Rachel Siewer, who led the questioning said, “To hear that 13.7 million has now swelled to 22 million makes my heart sink.”

“From questions during estimates it appears that Centrelink has no interest in taking further action in driving down the worrying statistics.

“At a time when the government is happy to paint people on income support as ‘dole bludgers’, having infrastructure in place that clearly can’t cope with demand shows a fundamental flaw.

“Someone might be receiving an overpayment and if they can’t get through to fix it, then the government is losing money.

“I urge the government to spend time and money adequately resourcing call centre infrastructure so that people on income support can access the services they deserve.”

Centrelink and the Department of Human Services were criticised earlier this year after a report found nearly a quarter of the 57 million phone calls made to Centrelink last year were unanswered and that Australians spent an estimated 143 years waiting to speak to someone at Centrelink before giving up.

Have you given up on trying to phone Centrelink? Are you comfortable using the apps and website instead or do you wish you could speak with a real person instead? 

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  1. They encourged people to ring instead of presenting in person to ease the long queues, now they have created a problem with jammed phone lines and long waits on hold.

  2. It is difficult even on a landline to get through to Centerlink and just as hard on the internet, the website is often down. They don’t want to deal with you at Centerlink offices and have cut staff. Trying to contact them is not only stressful in many instances it seems to be futile. Country people are even worse off , they have to drive hundreds of miles to get even the simplest of questions answered

    1 REPLY
    • Libby u took the words right out of my mouth. I think the staff have a huge brief to cover at Centrelink and are expected to be Jacks of all trades but masters of none. On the occasions I have had to deal with them, I have found conflicting advice has been given to me on a few occasions. Just don’t under stand how an important service like this is so underfunded. The politicians don’t go short so why should these staff working in these areas be so under resourced handling very complex matters.

  3. I always rock-up to the centrelink office…NEVER bother with the phone…

    5 REPLY
    • we don’t all live in the city and many country Towns don’t have a Centerlink office, the nearest is hundreds of miles away

    • Just about every time that I have been to centrelink the staff advise that they are not trained in that area, they than tell me I need to call on the phone but I don’t get a number for the trained staff I just get to call the same number that everyone uses. The last time it took 2 days to get someone to sort out my problem, or so I thought but no the person that I spoke to on the phone lied to me. A few weeks latter I had to go through it all again, I still don’t know if all is OK I have ask for a freedom of information document so that I can see what if any of the information that was given to centrelink was recorded or not.

    • David Golden The whole idea is for those on centrelink payments to use the phone & NOT rock up at a office. My experience (previously) showed clearly that the phone operatives know bugger all. Plus I am nearly 59 & have no wish to literally waste “time” lol! I have found that being a little “assertive” often works wonders. Remain calm, but determined. If they say there is no one there (in the office/centre) trained in that area (WTF) say, “I’m happy to wait until you can summon a trained operative” in a firm & quite loud voice. I have found being “a pain in the arse” (in a polite way) gets me what I want 🙂

  4. kkkkDoes that mean 22 million people are trying to get assistance from a Government body that is in place to give assistance?

  5. After the numerous calls to Centrelink and being put on hold then eventually being cut off which makes me so angry, I now get up early and get myself to Centrelink by 8.30 when the doors open so I can get in and out without wasting my precious time. It is disgusting the way we are treated by GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS just so they can save a dollar on wages and staff.

    7 REPLY
    • Wow Max what would make you think of the pokies? It sounds like that’s all you’ve got to do with your time.

    • Not nice Max, you don’t know Trish, what gives you the right to presume anything about her and like me she is here too much to be playing the pokies 🙂 It sounds to me like you are down there pumping your money into them

    • It’s amazing according to Max’s Facebook page, he is an Aussies however he doesn’t even live in Australia.

    • You nasty shit Max. That would be one of the rudest, most abrupt assumptions I’ve seen on fb

    • I also don’t bother calling. If I want to keep something I go to the office at 830 & have no problems. However I hardly need to contact them

  6. Beats me what they are doing because they don’t even help people to find jobs now. They farm them out to job agencies who get paid more than the former Centrelink staff got.

    4 REPLY
    • I have unemployed friends and they do nothing to help you, and this work for the dole is taking jobs from council workers, this whole system is flawed

    • I agree with Robyn Downey those job agencies are the biggest waste of time. Anyone I have ever spoken to looking for a job has found it themselves.

      1 REPLY
      • Yep, job agencies useless..and when I actually got a job myself, they tried to take credit (because I believe they get some kind of payment from Centrelink). They phoned me constantly and even emailed my new employer, saying I had given them permission to get my salary details etc. I finally made a formal complaint to the relevant Centrelink area..the agency was told not to contact me again, and I was advised to hang up if they did. Needless to say, they kept calling…until I hit pension age. Not once, in the two years I was dealing with them, did they ever supply me with job interviews.

        1 REPLY
        • On the subject of employment agencies and linked courses …..they have proved to be less than 5% efficient. Signing people up to courses that are essentially useless in the employment arena. The only reason they exist is to get that signature on paper that entitles them to hit up the government for as much as $18000 per person. TAFE did a way better job with far better outcomes.

    • Jane Hryckiewicz, you have nailed it! But wait for this. Years ago I saw a job for hubby in the newspaper. He phoned, made an appointment, got there and was told to go to this “agency” as they deal with all their new employees. They were just looking for the $10000-00 they could get from the goverment because he was over 55!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. In 2012 I pre-phoned Centrelink & reported I was travelling to NZ for 6 weeks – they bombarded me with calls in Auckland & almost ruined my holiday. I have never phoned them since (other than reporting I was back in NZ again!).

    9 REPLY
    • Allison I went to NZ with some friends for a month back in 2009 and I did everything I was suppose to do before I left Australia, only to have a nasty letter from Centrelink when I returned saying my payment had been stopped because I neglected to advise Centrelink I would be leaving the Country, I was so angry I went to Centrelink and the person I spoke to before I went away asked me why I was annoyed and when I told what happened he checked and turned the computer around to face me and all the information was there for anyone to see if they bothered to check. Incompetent staff.

    • Trish Daley Hi Trish, I ask myself WHY? Maybe they are learners but really nothing should happen to this extent to us. I had to pay for those calls back to Oz & of course the waiting time on the phone was drawn out. I’m sorry you had to go through this too.

    • Excuse my ignorance, but why can’t you go and enjoy a holiday! Do you need to tell them how many loo stops you make a day? Why don’t they come down on the young ones that are unemployed and cut down their allowances??

    • Helen I was just talking to a friend who has just got back from Bali about 10 days ago and they told me the same thing happened to them, only my girlfriend was ok yet her husband who was with her had his pension stopped because Centrelink said he stayed longer, I don’t know where they get their information because they went together and returned together. It’s a joke and not a funny one at that.

    • Well, the flights are often very cheap & Bali accom is cheap – we usually have relatives to stay with in NZ.

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