Centrelink claims backlog slashed in processing blitz from new recruits

Dan Jervis-Bardy
The Nightly
A massive backlog in Centrelink and Medicare claims has almost halved in just 10 weeks.
A massive backlog in Centrelink and Medicare claims has almost halved in just 10 weeks. Credit: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

A massive backlog in Centrelink and Medicare claims has almost halved in just 10 weeks, helping to speed up essential payments to Australians under cost-of-living pressure.

Services Australia recruited more than 3000 permanent staff earlier this year to help process claims for payments including the pension, parent payment and carers allowance.

Labor claims processing times blew out under the former Coalition Government after it slashed agency staff.

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The addition of the recruits has helped reduce the backlog by more than 500,000 claims, cutting it from a peak of roughly 1.35 million to around 800,000 during a 10-week processing blitz.

The agency hopes to reach “normal levels” — a backlog of about 500,000 claims — by the middle of the year.

The number of Medicare online accounts claims on hand has reduced 78 per cent, while outstanding Commonwealth Seniors Health Card claims have dropped 59 per cent, according to Federal Government figures.

“We absolutely acknowledge the frustration of people waiting for payments, but for the first time in a long time we are headed in the right direction,” Government Services Minister Bill Shorten said.

“This is what good government looks like.

“These new recruits helped reduce claims by almost 40 per cent and Australians will continue to see improvements as the new staff increase their skills and experience.

“I’m extremely proud of the work from the new staff and also want to thank existing staff that trained them and welcomed them into their teams.”

Mr Shorten said further reducing the backlog would bring down call wait times, as fewer recipients would be on the phone checking up on their claims.

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