Senate Told of Centrelink ‘Debacle’
2 February 2016 at 10:21 pm
Details of hundreds of Centrelink complaints have been read to the Senate by WA Greens Senator Rachel Siewert after they were posted on her Facebook page late last week.
Senator Siewert told parliament during an adjournment debate on Tuesday night that nearly 400 complaints were accrued on her facebook page in just a few days.
“After 22 million missed phone calls last year amongst other issues, there are many Australians accessing income support of some form, be it Family Tax Benefit, Paid Parental Leave, Disability Support Pension, Youth Allowance, Newstart, Carers Allowance, who feel extremely frustrated. The missed calls are just the tip of the iceberg,” Senator Siewert said.
“Disability Support Pension recipients are reeling from the tightened eligibility that has left many without an adequate income. Carers trying to access the carers payment are being forced to stay on the line for hours, often just to be hung up on. Young single mothers trying to access their Single Parent Payment and can’t get through. It goes on.
“We have a debacle on our hands.
Siewert urged the government to “stop vilifying Australians accessing income support and properly fund staffing and Centrelink infrastructure” so that the most vulnerable people in the community get the support they need.
Siewert said that she would take the issues raised in each complaint to the Senate estimates next week and would ask the relevant departments to provide an explanation.
“The government is so set on vilifying income support recipients and have ploughed money into initiatives like a ‘welfare cop’, meanwhile there are endless accounts of recipients trying to adjust their payment just to hit a busy dial tone or hours of wait time,” she said.
Siewert told parliament that the complaints amounted to 88 pages of encounters with an “incredibly difficult bureaucracy”.
“There is a sense of mounting frustration in the community. Frustration at not being able to get through and when they do, waiting for hours on the telephone,” she said.
“People are frustrated at being told to visit a Centrelink office, only to be told to go online to a website that doesn’t work. The MyGov website has left people stranded, without a way to access the information and support they need.
“People are losing payments after letters have been sent to the wrong address. People are losing their payments, because of mistakes made by the department [Department of Human Services]. Then they have to suffer through hours on the telephone and weeks of waiting to fix the mistake.”
(Senator Siewert holds up 88 pages of Centrelink complaints during the adjournment debate)
In April 2015, the Federal Government announced it was is about to begin a project to replace the Department of Human Services decades-old welfare payment IT system.
The then minister for social services Scott Morrison said the current system would be replaced with a modern platform as part of an important step in advancing welfare reform and an advisory group, comprised of experienced leaders from the public and private sectors, would be established to oversee the early stages of the project.
“This 30 year old system consisting of 30 million lines of code and undertaking more than 50 million daily transactions is responsible for delivering around $100 billion in payments to 7.3 million people every year,” Morrison said at the time.