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Independent News For The Australian Public Service
Edition Number 408. Updated Tuesday, 06 May 2014

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Centrelink to act on Ombudsmanís concerns

An Ombudsman's investigation into complaints made by Centrelink clients has found scope for the Agency to improve its standards of service delivery, communication and internal complaints handling.

In his report, Investigation into Service Delivery Complaints about Centrelink, Ombudsman, Colin Neave makes 12 recommendations for change to the Department of Human Services (DHS).

"We do not expect a Department the size of DHS, or its Centrelink program, to be error free," but the number and nature of complaints suggested "a gap between the Agency's commitment to service delivery and the reality", the Ombudsman said.

"No matter what the underlying cause of the person's problem with Centrelink, most mentioned difficulties with communication and access," Mr Neave said.

Probe faults handling of complaints

"The Department has responded positively to the report by agreeing to implement all of the recommendations, either in full or in part."

The report contained 40 case studies which illustrated the problems that led 9,600 Centrelink customers to complain to the Ombudsman's office between January 2012 and September 2013.

The audit found some people had difficulty finding information about payment qualifications and had trouble making a claim because of a lack of accurate information, nor could they understand Centrelink's correspondence.

People occasionally found online services were not functioning, and could not readily access help by telephone or in person at a Service Centre.

"We remain concerned that some of Centrelink's customers are not experiencing improvements in service and some are at risk of being left behind as their access to traditional service channels reduces," Mr Neave said

The Ombudsman recommended improvements to the telephone service, claims processing, record storage, responsiveness to online enquiries, performance standards for written correspondence, payment accuracy, service delays and the internal complaints process.

The full report can be viewed at this PS News link.

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