The wait times on Centrelink claims being processed may increase, with more cuts to staff in the public service sector.
In the recent federal budget, 1,280 jobs were cut from the Department of Human Services, following on from the 1200 jobs cut in the previous budget.
However, the department will pay contractors to run call centres, and will use more than $50 million set aside from its budget to improve call-waiting times.
Department of Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen told Fairfax Media the average call wait times was “around 16 minutes this financial year to date”.
“The department has a range of initiatives under way to reduce call wait times and we are already seeing the benefits of this work,” he said.
“More callers are getting through the first time they ring and there has been a substantial reduction in busy signals.”
There is also no end in sight for the department’s efforts to chase welfare debts, including its controversial “robo-debt” program, which is to be extended to 2022.
The program has seen several South Coast residents receive letters outlining Centrelink debts they allegedly have. A 24-year-old Wollongong woman is one of them. She was sent a letter saying she owed $6000.
“They added 10 per cent because they hadn’t heard anything from me because they sent it to my old address and I have changed my number,” the woman, who did not want to be named, said.
“I haven’t been on Centrelink for two and a half years since I was at uni, and I didn’t do anything dodgy.”