Centrelink under fire for botching waiting time figures and overworking staff

Long wait times, low customer service standards and no help in a branch – Centrelink is in dire need of

Long wait times, low customer service standards and no help in a branch – Centrelink is in dire need of a solution but it’s much worse than we’ve been made to believe.

Insiders have revealed that Centrelink is faking their figures to make the agency’s performance look better, reports Fairfax.

A survey of Department of Human Services workers by the Community and Public Sector union shows a ‘system close to breaking point’ as staff at Medicare and Centrelink reveal there’s much more to the story than we’re led to believe.

One public servant said Centrelink was “pretending” it was doing fine with low resources and it was “fraud on the people of Australia”.

The Community and Public Sector union says its members are highly concerned about inadequate staffing levels, massive processing delays, customers not receiving payments because of mistakes by over-worked or under-trained workers and staff being encouraged to falsify performance statistics to hide the problems that plague one of the most important Government departments.

The union says the survey shows that Department of Human Services is on the verge of collapse.

“DHS manipulate call wait times by using IIE [casual] staff to answer calls and immediately transfer them to another queue,” one public servant wrote in the anonymous survey.

“Similarly, customers at centres are being advised to call in.

“It’s very deceptive. Yes the queues look shorter, but that’s because most people are now being shunted to online services for phone queues.”

Another official said their team leaders were being encouraged to manipulate wait time data.

“Customer wait time has blown out again, however the management information used to determine this isn’t always accurate,” the public servants said.

“The data is highly flawed as it requires manual input from users, and TL [team leader] is quite often encouraged to manipulate wait time figures so things don’t look as bad as what they actually are.”

Another respondent spoke of the issues they have just simply answering a phone.

“We used to answer 75 per cent of calls within 150 seconds and now it’s lucky to be 1000 seconds and that is a fudged amount,” they said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Human Services said on Friday that they were worried by some of the material in the survey.

“We are concerned by some of these claims. In particular, we reject the suggestion that our staff manipulate wait time figures.

“Our staff also know that people in hardship should be given priority treatment.

“Around 90 per cent of our workforce is permanent, complemented by staff on temporary employment.

“This staffing profile and mix is not unusual for a large organisation”.

Is this statement just another lie? Or do you really think that wait time figures are genuine? Have you ever been silenced by upper management over an issue?

  1. My husband and I have been waiting over 3 mths for the age pension. I have rung a few times and been told they are way behind in processing and they don’t know how long we will have to wait. This is not good enough.

  2. Fiona Williams  

    It took five months for approval for my DSP, good think i had some money to tide me over. Now been waiting 3 months for my sons overpayment to be reviewed. The service us being cut to the bone staffing wise, i feel sorry for the workers, but the government is determined to cut costs, and it is public services that suffer.

  3. jan dodson  

    Called the Aged Persons line. Hung up after 58 mins of listening to music. Rang back straight away, was ready to give up after 59 mins and someone answered. Saying ‘can I help you’ I said.after holding for 2 hours I hope so. Click, was hung up on. And I am elderly and didn’ t say it rudely. I just said it politely. So got on Centrelink site on complaints. Wrote out complaint to Hank Yurgens. That was 2 weeks ago and haven’t heard a thing

  4. Trish  

    Phoning in is appalling, REALLY long waits, and the person on the other end is not happy when you comment on the wait time. I was hung up on once too. And going to an office is even worse. I was told once the wait was up to 4 repeat FOUR hours!!. I walked out and went to a smaller office that is now closed. Successive goats have done this – I know, I worked there for a lot of years and we on the inside could see it going from bad to worse. Believe me, a lot of the staff are not happy with the way things are but just soldier on. It is not really a fun place to work, believe me.

  5. Kaye  

    I can’t even get the phone to ring when I call the Newstart number, no matter what time of day, I only ever get a busy signal. I decided to try the Sickness Benefit number and after a few busy signals I finally had the joy of hearing the phone ring … only to be advised by recorded message that the wait time was over 70 minutes. If you are unwell the only option is to physically visit an office which is not always practical or advisable. This organization and its systems are seriously flawed!

  6. Rebecca  

    Given it has taken over 200 calls to even get to the automated part to be on hold for over 4 hours I’m pretty sure the staff are telling the truth and the higher ups are full of it and trying to cover up not to mention it is taking over 6 months for some claims to be processed

  7. Jan  

    Sat by the phone for an hour and a half waiting for the call that Centrelink had booked to discuss my application. Call never came, though I had very stern advice in the appointment letter about the consequences if I didn’t keep the appointment. Tried phoning them, and got an engaged tone 3 times. Called next morning and was on hold for 1 hour 22 minutes on a mobile phone, before I had to hang up. Are they going to cut off my benefits???!

  8. Karen  

    I have the same issue my daughter has ASD ADHD and Odd I applied for carers payment near 5 months ago and all they can say is it with the team

  9. What do people expect when the staffing levels are cut to the bone? The staff working at Centrelink are people too. Instead of criticism of the undermanned staff, how about ringing or writing to your local member or the Social Services Minister and complain about the long delays caused by their decisions to cut staff. Of course, don’t get me started on some of the rude, obnoxious, and often violent people the counter staff have to deal with. How do I know all of this? I have a relative who works there, that’s why..

  10. dianne hughes  

    oh my god when can this long term problem be sorted,seriously it is way over due,people need to be looked after sooner than 5ths waiting.

  11. Debbie Mitchell  

    I worked for the ATO as a casual employee for 2 years on contract, in that time many of the permanent (skilled) staff were sacked and replaced by poorly trained agency staff (paid a much lower hourly rate than ATO permanent staff. The agency staff would answer the incoming calls but then transfer them into “specialist queues” as they could not answer the callers question. The specialist queue was often over an hour or more wait time as there were only a handful of permanent skilled staff left who were able to answer customer calls correctly. I remember being assigned to a special taskforce to work on the backlog of incoming client correspondence – most of the backlog was between 6 to 9 months old or more and many involved refunds due to clients! It is not only Centrelink and Medicare that is affected by the savage cuts to the public service staff numbers but also the ATO and the Child Support Agency. These are all essential and important services for families, working people and the disadvantaged/elderly yet sevice levels are dropping all the time. Who knows where it will all end? I dread to think.

  12. Brenda gill  

    I waited for 3 hrs in a queue only to be hung up on as soon as being answered. So hop in car to centerlink office 25kms away, then told i had to call for that type of enquiry. Was only trying to find out what if any benefit could my very unwell son get as he was an apprentice.
    Tried to call complaints office after 2 hrs gave up

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