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Pensioner’s ‘demoralising’ fight to get through to Centrelink as wait times skyrocket

The disability support pensioner said she tried calling from 8:30am to 5:00pm but couldn’t get through.

A disability support pensioner has been trying for four weeks to get through to Centrelink’s phone line, as wait times to access welfare support skyrocket.

After noticing the payment of her disability support pension had stopped last month, Kathy Parrey has been trying ever since to contact Centrelink to find out the cause of the problem.

Kathy is unable to physically visit a Centrelink office due to her disability so has been trying to get through to someone over the phone. She says she’s been hung up on and unable to get through.

Are you dealing with long Centrelink wait times? Contact

Kathy Parrey, Centrelink recipient.
Centrelink recipients like Kathy Parrey say they are being hung up on and are struggling to access welfare help. (Source: A Current Affair)

“There’s nobody to talk to. There’s nobody,” Kathy told A Current Affair. “I’ve tried from 8:30 in the morning to 5 o’clock in the afternoon.


"If you don't choose the automation process, the next thing you get is, 'Well, we're very busy, goodbye' ... And you're just cut off. You can ring 20, 30, 40, 50 times a day, it doesn't matter.”

Average wait times skyrocketed to 32 minutes in July and August, up from 18 minutes a year earlier. But many recipients are unable to reach someone to speak to in the first place.


More than 7.4 million calls made to Services Australia were sent to voicemail last year, documents released in Senate Estimates this month revealed. More than 2 million calls were terminated by customers who just gave up trying.

Other Aussies like Bernadette and Peter Lohrey-Tom are facing long wait times to get their claims processed. The couple were told they may have to wait five months for Peter’s pension claim to go through.

Centrelink sign
Services Australia had a backlog of 1.1 million unprocessed claims at the end of last year. (Source: Getty)

‘Demoralising and frustrating’

Financial Counselling Australia co-CEO Dr Domenique Meyrick said its counsellors had been inundated with calls from people waiting for welfare help.

“This is demoralising and frustrating for everybody but it's particularly harmful for people who are vulnerable and, in the current climate, that could be any of us,” Meyrick told A Current Affair.

"It's really unfortunate to have a system that's designed to help actually causing harm or increasing harm, it's making life more difficult for people.”

Services Australia had a backlog of 1.1 million unprocessed claims at the end of last year. It has now hired 3,000 new staff to help get through the backlog and says the new hires will help reduce call wait times and speed up claim payments.

Services Australia general manager Hank Jongen acknowledged current delays to access government welfare were “not acceptable” and said customers would start to see an improvement by April.

Kathy has now hired a carer to take her to a Centrelink office in person to get her problem sorted.

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