6th August 2012 – Financial Counselling Australia and the National Welfare Rights Network have both welcomed the federal government’s announcement of a boost in staff numbers for the Centrelink call centre. With some welfare recipients currently remaining on hold for up to 90 minutes, both organisations describe the boost as sorely needed.

“The volume of calls made to Centrelink has increased by more than twenty percent over the past six years, to a current level of around one hundred and fifty thousand calls per day,” said Maree O’Halloran, President of the National Welfare Network.

“That is a significant increase and very obviously requires a greater number of front-line staff to service them. The announcement last week by Senator Kim Carr, the Minister for Human Services, that call centre staff numbers will be increased and that other Centrelink staff will be redeployed to the call centre during times of peak demand is welcome news. We hope that the staffing level increase will be permanent.”

Time is money …

No one likes being kept on hold, but according to Fiona Guthrie, Executive Director of Financial Counselling Australia, welfare recipients can least afford it. “Some clients of our financial counsellors have been reporting wait times of up to two hours when phoning Centrelink,” she said. “If they don’t have access to a landline and have to use a mobile phone, it can be costing them money that they simply don’t have. Senator Carr has recognised this issue and by increasing staff numbers has made an important first step in helping to reduce the wait time, associated cost and associated stress for a vulnerable section of our community.”

“We congratulate the government on being proactive with regards to this issue, and hope that they will continue to monitor call wait times and adjust staffing levels accordingly.”