Age pensioners and carers are waiting longer to have their payments approved, and calls for help are going unanswered, yet the Turnbull Government keeps cutting and outsourcing Centrelink jobs.
Federal Member for Dobell Emma McBride and Labor Shadow Minister for Human Services Linda Burney met this week with Centrelink workers from the Central Coast and their union representatives.
“Morale at Centrelink is at an all-time low,” Ms Burney said.
“Wherever I travel in Australia, I hear the same stories.”
The workers told of large workloads, staff working overtime to clear the backlog, and an IT system that could not cope.
“People who work at Centrelink are incredibly hardworking and dedicated to helping others, but they are not getting the support they need,” Ms McBride said.
“We have been told that a person’s age pension application can sit for 49 days before anyone even looks at it, and that a new IT system is so clunky that claims can take five times as long.
“People seeking help are becoming increasingly frustrated as frontline Centrelink staff are unable to help them. Instead, those staff have to call experts, causing more delays.
“It is not good enough that some people on the Coast have been waiting for their pension to come through since November.
“This long delay means they don’t have access to a healthcare card, so prescriptions can cost in the order of $40 instead of $6.50,” Ms McBride said.
Linda Burney said age pensions and carer payments can be complex, but the long waits were unacceptable.
“That’s why it’s so important that Centrelink has permanent, full-time staff who are supported, familiar and skilled to manage the often complex issues facing income support recipients,” Ms Burney said.
“Last year, Malcolm Turnbull axed 1,180 jobs from Centrelink, and now we’ve seen age pension and carer payment processing times completely blow out.
“This year, he axed a further 1,280 jobs from Centrelink and outsourced 1,250 to labour hire.
“This Government is selling Centrelink jobs piece by piece. It is trying to make it so difficult for Australians to claim income support in the hope they just give up.”