news Labor has released a statement over what it calls a “collapse” in the standards of telecoms and IT services at Centrelink and Medicare.
The Opposition cited a number of issues at the Department of Human Services (DHS) to back up the claim.
It said that the number of calls answered by Centrelink (initially by its Interactive Voice Response system) has dropped by 3 million in one year (11.1%) and that only 64.3% of calls from customers are answered – down from 75.43% in 2013-14.
Further issues at Centrelink saw 906,657 customers (13.22% of users) being overpaid, sometimes multiple times, while 37% of people using the Medicare mobile app have experienced problems using it.
The DHS Annual Report also indicates that complaints are up 18.8% on last year, and customer satisfaction is down by 8%, according to the Labor statement.
Also included was a list of other issues at the DHS:
- The Australian National Audit Office’s Management of Smart Centre’s Centrelink Telephone Services Report showed that approximately 40% of all incoming calls result from failed online or self-services, and the growth of digital transactions has not reduced demand for call centre services as was anticipated.
- A New Year’s Day glitch caused 70,000 people to be told they owed up to $800 to the government.
- An Audit Office and Ombudsman report notes service delivery failures in customer identity protection, call wait times, online and face to face services.
- The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s follow-up review of service delivery complaints at Centrelink revealed that problems persisted for more than 18 months after his initial report was published in April 2014.
Labor claimed Centrelink has responded to criticism of call-answering delays, not by improving customer service, but by simply “turning off the wait time message”.
“The situation just gets more farcical. Faced with massive blowouts in waiting times, the Government’s response is to simply make it harder for people to know how long they’re waiting,” said Senator Cameron, Shadow Minister For Human Services.
“One of the key recommendations of the Ombudsman’s report was to let people know how long they’ll be on the phone for,” he said, “and yet people can’t even find that out when they call – assuming they even get through.”
“The Government has only itself to blame. Staff say that many of the problems are due to cuts,” said Cameron.
“While the government plans to spend up to $1bn on the welfare infrastructure payment transformation program to fix these problems, “details are very scant, and it isn’t due to be completed until 2022,” he concluded.
In the statement, Labor also criticised the timing of a recently announced campaign to spend $28 million on ads that ‘embrace innovation’.
Image credit: Parliamentary Broadcasting