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Customers hanging up on Centrelink

Ms Payne is against spending hundreds of millions of dollars to address the symptoms.
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The Federal Government says it will not waste taxpayers’ money on more staff to reduce lengthy Centrelink telephone wait times.

A new report shows millions are hanging up in frustration with the service.

More than 13 million calls to the hotline received a busy signal in 2013-14, the Commonwealth auditor’s report has found.

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Of the 43 million calls that were able to enter the network during the same period, nearly a third were abandoned by callers who waited an average of nine minutes on the line.

Lengthy waits are what people most complain about with regard to Centrelink services, the report showed.

Average wait times had jumped from three minutes to 16 minutes in the space of three years.

The report recommended that the Department of Human Services review its performance standards.

Labor wants customers to be made aware of how long they can expect to wait, especially considering the rollout of a $1 billion computer system will take several years.

But Human Services Minister Marise Payne says it will cost more than $100 million each year to fund about 1000 more staff to handle the calls.

That does not sit well with the government’s mantra of putting Australia on a path of living within its means.

“Spending hundreds of millions of dollars to address the symptoms and not the cause of Centrelink telephone wait times is not a responsible use of taxpayer money,” Senator Payne said.

The new IT system would reduce wait times by encouraging people to go online instead of phoning, she added.

In 2010-11, customers could expect to wait three minutes and five seconds, in 2013-14 that shot up to 16 minutes and 53 seconds

Of the 56.8 million calls made to Centrelink in 2013-14, 43.1 million calls were able to enter the network while 13.7 million calls ended up with a busy signal

Of the calls that were able to enter the network, about 45 per cent were answered and about a quarter were resolved.

Customers hung up on the remaining calls, were about 30 per cent.

Those who hung up waited an average of nine minutes and 42 seconds before abandoning the call.


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