Budget cuts lead to more aggression against Centrelink and Medicare staff
8 April 2012, 3:18pm
Centrelink and Medicare staff are being exposed to increasing levels of aggression and abuse as Federal Government budget cuts lead to longer wait times for millions of Australian pensioners, families, new parents, and others who rely on government payments.
In a recent CPSU survey of frontline service delivery staff in Centrelink and Medicare, 71 per cent say customer hostility has increased in the last six months, while 55 per cent say aggression has increased.
Another CPSU survey of women in customer service positions across the public service revealed 62 per cent have experienced customer aggression, including serious verbal threats.
CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said the increase in abuse towards staff was a major concern.
“These conditions pose a risk to clients and the community. Anyone should be able to walk into a Centrelink office without the risk of being caught up in this kind of conflict.”
“We’re getting regular reports about verbal death threats, spitting, punching, head-butting and worse.
“Centrelink and Medicare workers are under increasing pressure to look after more clients with fewer resources as a result of budget cuts. Staff morale has hit the floor, with staff worried conditions are going to get worse,” Ms Flood said.
“It’s shocking to se that abuse and threats are now so common they appear to have become just part of the job.”
The CPSU survey also found a worrying drop in Centrelink work standards, with 82 per cent saying wait times had increased, and 69 per cent saying that more mistakes were being made as a result of budget cuts and staffing problems.
Department of Human Services staff numbers have dropped from 42,000 in 2010–11, to 38,000 this year and are predicted to drop even further as a result of a range of Federal Government budget cuts, including an increase to the “efficiency dividend”.
“You can’t cut $2.2 billion from public services without reducing the quality of service delivered to the public,” Ms Flood said.
“We’re deeply concerned that Government may cut Centrelink and Medicare even further in the upcoming Budget. I’m certain most Australians do not want a Budget surplus at the expense of essential frontline services.”