Nice try Hank, but DHS staff not to blame

Last week DHS spokesperson, Hank Jongen sought to blame staff for the community’s widespread resistance to and frustration with  the online compliance system. This is massive spin, even for Hank. The irony here being that if frontline staff had had input into the design of the troubled online compliance system it wouldn’t be generating erroneous debts.

What frontline staff are saying:

These are just some of the interesting comments members have forwarded so far.

Senior Management to blame - “Staff are back to being a commodity that is being used to represent, excuse and justify abysmal management of a flawed system. I must praise the team leaders and TSO’s who have and continue to guide us – a tremendous effort. Also, the lower senior management who add value to the process.”

“There needs to be responsibility taken by senior management regarding the accuracy and integrity of the DBM/OCI systems. Every customer who is requested to pay a debt that doesn’t exist, or who cannot be given an assured review outcome within a reasonable time (now over 50 days I believe) walks away with a negative image that adds to the impact of the system.”

Culture of customer avoidance - “Of course workload manager has meant an even stronger push not to provide face to face service in the service centres due to lack of available staff. The culture has changed from trying to assist customers to avoiding assisting customers.  Add to this shift in culture front of house staff that are often inexperienced (as they have been employed to assist on self service and do not have the background general  knowledge of payments and processes) and it is just a recipe for disaster. Customers are disgruntled and desperate for guidance, staff are disgruntled and stressed.”

“It is interesting that the official line is still that face to face service is available as requested. Good luck with that. Of course, should there be a friend of the manager or an MP request , they do get the service that should be provided to every customer.”

FOI requests sky rocket - “The Freedom of Information (FOI) team has received over 200 requests for information since December 2016 from customers dealing with the OCI implementation.” 

‘Workload Manager’ results in time wasting and duplication - “Centrelink is understaffed, undertrained, but at the same time there is so much duplication and time wasting, especially now with Workload Manager. You can have multiple staff looking at a piece of work on workload manager, rather than have one staff member responsible for and familiar with it taking it to completion.”

Appeals at record numbers - “Appeals in our office are at record numbers- and no one is doing them- no time!”

Customer need vs. customer dread - “I have been working part time for Centrelink for nearly 21 years. I dread having to deal with them in my retirement!”

Non ongoing staff not trained - “I was non ongoing for 3 years fully trained in FAO and now I am casual still doing the same job but without the training. It’s so unfair to all of us, we deserve permanent jobs and the training.”

Online compliance failure is system design not ICT - “I can verify that while there are issues - none of them have occurred through ICT technical fault. This system works as 100% to specification. This whole debacle is stemming from bad policy not our Online Compliance System.”

Engage with DHS staff, don't try to gag them - “The LNP government and DHS management are guilty of culpable negligence for, not only conceiving of such an obviously defective and immoral system, but to implement it against the advice of staff. Then to intimidate and threaten staff in order to gag them from speaking out is nothing less than blatant and wilful malice!!”

We need safety and protection - “Customer aggression is understandably rising causing staff to be at risk. We need to better this situation sooner rather than later and whistleblowers need to be protected as they are only coming from a place of concern for those we are meant to be serving.”

It’s never been this bad - “Never in the 20 years that I have worked for Centrelink has the trust in our business by our customers been so low. What has caused this? Reduction in the number of employees. They did away with the review processes, the sending out of a form to make sure people were receiving their correct entitlements - this process prevented debts and particularly long term debts. There once were staff who were trained to do this work. Debts were raised based on staff (human interaction) because these people knew our computer systems to prevent incorrect decisions being made.”

My work isn’t casual so why is my employment? “I’m on a 3 month non-ongoing contract, which they then advised us would be extended to 12 months. Am yet to see that new contract. So I'd be very happy to have a permanent position or even my 12 month contract. We are all quite worried about where all this will lead.”

“All I can do is look for another job outside DHS. That’s life from my perspective. Wait for a decision and risk being on the dole.”

Just the tip of the Iceberg – take a look at Medicare - “Great you are bringing the Centrelink compliance issue to the fore but what about the inadequate processing and errors of the Medicare side of the business? Providers are complaining and every Australian is being short changed. Come on step up the pressure on the now inadequate service of the Medicare systems/processes.”

“DHS is imploding. I work for the Medicare system. It is also understaffed. App claims which are supposed to take about 3 days max to be processed are taking up to a month. The staff left are continually fending off questions about where is their claim or fixing processing errors. They are ALL being managed by Centrelink trained managers who have no idea about Medicare.”

‘Customer’ disappeared from service - “It goes without saying that we need more staff.  Years ago we used to have targets of calls being answered within a certain timeframe.  I believe that's when they started putting on staff with minimal training. They would meet the targets by answering the call, but that's about all they could do before they then transferred to a 'specialist'.  It seems that's all that happens now.  95% of the calls I receive are transferred- many inappropriate transfers & wrong info given.  There appears no concern over how long customers are on hold, and tales of 3 plus hours and multiple transfers are the standard now, sadly.”

I knew the system wasn’t right back then! “My first introduction was when a woman was directed to go on line to do a review. Firstly, she did not have access to the online service so I called the team as per the advice on the letter. There I spoke to a very unhelpful person basically saying that it has to be done online. So we struggled through and got her set up only to find that once we got online there seemed to ask the question of

a) Did you work for this employer? And

b) Did you earn xx from them.

The customer ticked yes to both of those as she had her tax return and yes the info was correct. What it didn't ask was ' did you earn xx from them during these two dates'. There is also nowhere a customer can even check what they have reported. I knew that this wasn't right then!”

Will they sell us off? “Its part of a greater plan ...make the public so angry with the one will care when it’s broken up and sold off ...”

Robo-rostering spreading – “The dehumanisation of the Dept. of Human Services applies to both customers and staff. A couple of months of bogus 'consultation' were held; staff were supposed to raise questions about something they knew next to nothing about. Now, having ended the consultation, finally some information is being disclosed. The information from the Branch attempts to disguise this fact because robot algorithms can't deal with the diversity of human needs.”

“Workers aged 55 and up; with school age children; with Carer status; with OH&S issues or devotional needs; with Domestic Violence issues: any and all staff in these situations can seek to negotiate working hours directly with their Team Leader and escape robo-rostering.”

Please keep up the fight – “CPSU please argue for a return to committed staff training. Continue to fight for more staff. Demand better access for ALL customers of DHS.”

“The current compliance issue must cease. Provide staff and proper training with human raised debts. Stop wasting tax payer monies on non-tested electronic systems. Implement a system that has considered all possibilities for each & every customer. I'm embarrassed to work for DHS.”