By Ben Wilson
It was bound to happen. Privatised outsourcing of customer information provision at Centrelink is giving incorrect information to people.
Not that this is a huge change. What is shows, is that instead of doing something about it, Scott Morrison and his lot, have tried to hide it by handing over the work to private companies.
The problem is not on only misinformation. A stack of other “errors,” are being made. Calls are being constantly transferred around and there are a lot of mistakes in the processing.
This comes from a Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) survey of Human Services workers.
According to the survey, 85 per cent of respondents say private call providers are having a negative impact on service standards. They report the private call centre staff don’t have the training they need, and clients are waiting longer to have their issues resolved, because they can’t always be fixed by the private contractors. They say that Human Services workers often have to fix problems caused by the call centres.
Most scary is that private contractors are also working in the compliance area. Human Services staff suggest that appealing to against a decision is being made harder, when it is suggested that an application cannot be made without providing further evidence first. Although this is supposed to be against the guidelines, they are getting away with it.
A consequence is that staff are facing a rise in the number of angry people that they must face, and this is having a negative impact on the quality of the work environment. The use of casually employed contractors is also creating job insecurity.
But it is much worse for those who depend on Centrelink to get by. Too many are missing out on the already miserly income provided and are having uncalled for debts imposed on them, and this inevitably adds to the poverty problem in Australia.
Although the government’s figures suggest that waiting times on phone calls are going down, this is misleading. There are now longer holdups in calls transfers. This means that real waiting times are being hidden, because the statistics only count the time till initial contact.
The Community and Public Sector Union has signaled that the use of contractors at the department will be a major focus of its campaigning in the lead up to the next election.
“DHS workers know the inside story on why the services they provide to the community have declined under this government, with our survey providing damning statistics particularly on the use of labour hire and privately operated call centres. Workers have seen the impact of massive job cuts and now they’re also seeing the flow-on impacts from farming work out to corporate interests focussed on profits not people,” the union’s deputy secretary Melissa Donnelly said.