Centrelink Service Automation is Failing, Study Shows
25 June 2018 at 5:31 pm
Centrelink’s move to automate some services is failing its clients, and costing more time and money, an Anglicare Australia study shows.
Executive director Kasy Chambers said it was becoming too difficult for clients to talk to a human being at Centrelink as they were increasingly directed to unreliable phone and computer assistant services.
“Centrelink might believe that it’s saving time and money, but what it’s really doing is shifting the burden onto its clients and the services that help them,” Chambers said.
Chambers said these problems were only getting worse as more people were pushed onto Newstart from other payments.
“If the automation agenda is going to work, we need to stop cutting Centrelink and resource their staff to identify and support vulnerable clients,” she said.
The research was conducted across three different jurisdictions by Anglicare Southern Queensland, Anglicare Tasmania, and Anglicare Western Australia.
It involved surveys and face-to-face interviews with a total of 218 staff, and a collection of client case studies. Its key findings included:
- People reported waiting on the phone for hours, and high rates of disconnection and abandonment. This aligns with data from Centrelink from the past year – 33 million calls went unanswered and 55 million callers got an engaged signal.
- Clients reported getting different information depending on who they spoke to at Centrelink.
- Over a period of a fortnight, community support staff in the survey were spending the equivalent of 6.6 full time equivalent positions just on dealing with Centrelink issues.
- Surveyed staff estimated how much they spent over a week due to clients’ Centrelink issues. In one week this totalled $7,849. This is an annual Anglicare subsidy to Centrelink of at least $408,148.
- Centrelink staff lacked training and resources to help clients who were being failed by automation.