Call for Cen­tre­link to lift its game

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - EDUCATION -

CEN­TRE­LINK prob­lems are a vi­cious cy­cle as phone wait times in­crease and web­site is­sues worsen, ac­cord­ing to the Greens.

Aus­tralian Greens Se­na­tor Rachel Siew­ert said she had been ad­vo­cat­ing for in­come sup­port for about 11 years, and that prob­lems with Cen­tre­link had wors­ened dra­mat­i­cally in the past two years.

“We’re con­stantly get­ting com­plaints and it’s re­ally es­ca­lated re­cently,” Ms Siew­ert said. “A third of the calls last year were unan­swered or peo­ple couldn’t even get through, or if they did get through they ended up wait­ing and just got cut off.”

In a pub­lic bid to prove that wait times were out of con­trol, the Greens staged a stunt out­side the Vic­to­ria Park Cen­tre­link this month.

Set­ting up bean­bags and armed with snacks and wa­ter, the par­tic­i­pants were pre­pared to wait for hours.

Two peo­ple gave them­selves over to the cause and spent over two hours at­tempt­ing to make it through the Cen­tre­link phone lines.

Both had lim­ited suc­cess; one caller tried over 80 times and an­other tried over 110 times.

“Peo­ple are get­ting frus­trated by this ev­ery day. It’s about the sys­tem, not the peo­ple who are try­ing to help them,” Ms Siew­ert said.

“The govern­ment says ‘it’s go­ing to get bet­ter be­cause peo­ple can go on­line through my gov site and get bet­ter sup­port’.

“But we know that’s not go­ing to work be­cause the IT sys­tem isn’t up to scratch and it’ll cost a lot of money to fix it.

“But they’re still driv­ing peo­ple to­wards it, and the IT in­fras­truc­ture isn’t there yet.”

But Depart­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices gen­eral man­ager Hank Jon­gen said the depart­ment was com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing qual­ity ser­vices to thou­sands of peo­ple ac­cess­ing Cen­tre­link, Medi­care and Child Sup­port ser­vices daily.

“The vast ma­jor­ity of our cus­tomers com­plete their busi­ness with us with­out is­sue; how­ever we are com­mit­ted to ad­dress­ing ar­eas of con­cern, in­clud­ing ac­cess to ser­vices,” Mr Jon­gen said.

“The depart­ment has a num­ber of key pieces of work un­der­way to reduce call wait times and im­prove cus­tomer ser­vice.”

Mr Jon­gen said the depart­ment was cur­rently hir­ing an ad­di­tional 1665 staff for con­tact cen­tres to help man­age and reduce the wait times on Cen­tre­link phone­lines.

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