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Centrelink’s ‘critical’ $228m boost as call wait times blow out

Centrelink call centres will get an extra 3,000 staff as part of a $228 million boost.

Centrelink recipients could soon experience shorter call wait times and quicker payment claims following a staffing boost.

Centrelink call centres will get an additional 3,000 staff in centres as part of the government’s efforts to implement recommendations from the Robodebt Royal Commission.

It comes as Centrelink call wait times blow-out, with the average time ballooning to more than 30 minutes in July and August.

Centrelink
Centrelink recipients could soon have shorter call wait times, as times blow out to more than 30 minutes. (Source: Getty)

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Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said the $228 million funding boost would help return humans to Centrelink and Medicare and help ensure schemes like Robodebt do not occur again.

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"The Liberals wickedly used the illegal Robodebt scheme to decimate contact channels so people could not connect with Services Australia and make complaints," Shorten said.

"The new staff will be critical to reducing call wait times, speeding up claim payments and giving Australians back some time in their busy lives.”

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More than 800 workers have already been recruited, with the remaining staff to be employed in capital cities and regional centres such as Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour in New South Wales, Toowoomba and Maryborough in Queensland, and Ballarat and LaTrobe Valley in Victoria.

Centrelink wait times blow-out

Centrelink said it issued 2.8 million busy messages to callers in July and August, with only 23 per cent of calls to the agency answered and 800,000 terminated by the customer.

The average wait time over that period was 32 minutes, compared to 22 minutes for the previous financial year.

The Australian Unemployed Workers' Union has also set up its own dashboard for Centrelink recipients to monitor call wait times.

In the first few weeks of operating, it found only 16 per cent of calls were answered and average daily wait times were 108 minutes for those who managed to get through.

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