Joint statement - the crisis in Centrelink and Medicare

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Millions of people in Australia rely on the Department of Human Services (DHS) every day. Pensioners, older Australians, people with disability, families, carers, people seeking paid work, refugees and students; all rely on the essential services DHS staff provide. 

Australia needs a strong, publicly funded social security system. These essential services should be accessible to all Australians. The best way to achieve this is by ensuring that all employees of DHS are properly resourced to do the best they can for people needing assistance. 

No one should be pushed into poverty when sick, fleeing domestic violence or facing a natural disaster. However, years of budget cuts and an aggressive program of privatisation now sees the Government let down the members of our community who most need our help. 

In 2017-2018 over 46 million calls to DHS went unanswered. A further 5.3 million calls were abandoned as frustrated customers gave up on getting through to speak to the right person. Australians are waiting longer to have their claims assessed and processed, there has been a blow out in processing times for the aged pension, with the standard processing time already 49 days and nearly 10,000 claims taking even longer than that.

Our social security system is no longer able to adequately support our community because over years staff numbers have been slashed, budgets cut and instead of restoring staff numbers the Coalition Government has inch by inch been privatising core elements of the Department’s work. 

The Government has privatised DHS call centre jobs, handing over our essential services to private companies who must make a profit.  There are now 2,750 outsourced DHS call centre jobs and thousands of labour hire employees now being used in Centrelink and Medicare.

This privatisation has led to more mistakes with services being disrupted and further delays to the community. Private corporations should have no place in handling our sensitive health records or our social security payments. 

People who rely on DHS deserve high quality public services, delivered by highly-trained, accountable staff who are employed directly by the Government. 

 As representatives of community groups, users of DHS services and workers, we call on all political parties and candidates to:

•    Stop the privatisation of Centrelink and Medicare

•    Increase DHS permanent staff numbers so that members of our community can get the help they need when they need it – with claims processed quickly and support over-the-phone or in-person services 

•    Ensure that all Australians regardless of where you live have fair access to DHS services