500,000 Claims Slashed From Services Australia Backlog

Dept of Social Services

After a decade of Liberal neglect of Services Australia, the Albanese Government has had a major breakthrough with half a million claims processed for Australians in just ten weeks.

The Coalition slashed about 6,000 staff and implemented Robodebt, which destroyed lives and saw Services Australia gutted. As a result, Australians were also punished with slow processing times and phone delays.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Coalition also knew Services Australia was understaffed and underfunded and chose to ignore it.

Critical government payments, including the Disability Support Pension, Parent Payments, Carers Allowance and the Age Pension, were regularly delayed by weeks, and in some instances more than a month, under the Coalition.

To fix this problem, Labor hired more than 3,000 new permanent staff to process critical Medicare and Centrelink claims. The turnaround has been a quick success, delivering more supports to Australians when they need it most.

This has seen a backlog of 500,000 Centrelink and Medicare claims radically slashed in just ten weeks, meaning more financial supports are getting to Australians dealing with cost-of-living pressures.

Recruited in a record 10 weeks, all the new staff were onboard by mid-January and finished training in early April. During training this year, when experienced staff were offline and over 4.85 million new claims came in, the backlog peaked at 1.35 million. This was more than twice normal levels.

The backlog is on track to be back to normal levels by the middle of this year.

Minister for Government Services, the Hon. Bill Shorten MP, said the agency was focused on getting outstanding claims down as quickly as possible.

“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,” Minister 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.

The recruits have also answered 920,000 phone calls from Australians, as well as processing 677,000 claims.

Examples of progress include:

  • Reduced Medicare Online Accounts claims on hand by 78%
  • Reduced Low Income Card (LIC) claims on hand by 77%
  • Reduced Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) claims on hand by 59%

“Services Australia had seen thousands of staff ripped out of core business areas assisting customers while successive Coalition governments were in power.

“We hope to reduce outstanding claims back to usual levels by mid-year.

“Reducing the outstanding claims will help to bring down call wait times, as fewer people will be on the phone to check what’s happening with their claims.”

The new recruits are based in major cities and regional centres including Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour in NSW, Toowoomba and Maryborough in Queensland, and Ballarat and LaTrobe Valley in Victoria.

The extra staff includes interpreters to help the agency engage with culturally and linguistically diverse communities, and are on top of the additional 850 emergency response staff announced in the Federal Budget.

/Public Release. View in full here.