Another Centrelink rant

I believe I have blogged on the subject of our government’s welfare and pension arm before. But it’s time for another rant.

Quite some time ago (somewhere around September last year, I believe) I discovered that somebody had been fraudulently using my Tax File Number. The effect this had on me was the incorrect reporting of my income (which should have been $0 but was instead around $40,000) and the reduction of my payments from Centrelink. That meant I had to go to the Tax Office and apply for a new one.

Finally, just a couple of days ago, the Tax Office sent me my new Tax File Number. Yeah, it took them about six months, but that’s another story. So for the last few days, I have been trying to call Centrelink to tell them that I have my new number.

The first time I tried, a recorded message told me there was an expected wait time of over forty minutes. Being unable to spend that long on the phone at that time, I hung up and tried again in a little while. Again, I was told there was a long wait – this time, over thirty minutes. Still too long. I tried again shortly afterwards, only to hear a busy signal. I gave up for that day.

The next day, it was a similar story. Once the call actually dropped out; I checked the reception on my phone but it was strong, so I can only suppose Centrelink’s phone system was responsible for that. But on other tries it was the busy signal again, or messages advising of very long waiting times.

Today I thought I’d try nice and early, hoping to beat the rush and get through quickly. I called half an hour after their opening time. Twice – at 8.30 and 8.35 – a recorded message told me that I had called outside of call centre open hours. Untrue! They definitely open at 8am; their own website says so. So that was frustrating. Finally, on my third try this morning, I got through all the prompts, didn’t get a message about long wait times, and was finally on hold to speak to an actual operator. This seemed positive, as both children were otherwise occupied so I thought I’d be able to complete this call with minimal distraction.

Fast forward twenty-five minutes. I was still on hold, but now the kids were clamouring for me. Evelyn had woken from her nap about ten minutes into the call, but for a little while she’d been happy to sit in her cot alone. Elspeth had used the potty and needed help cleaning up. I simply couldn’t hold the line any longer. I had to hang up again.

So I’m giving up on calling them. On Tuesday, hopefully, I will go into their actual office and speak to an actual person, face-to-face. Although they’ll probably tell me I have to speak to the call centre!

I can’t help wondering how many people never manage to speak to Centrelink because of their inefficient phone system and under-staffing, and in consequence have their payments reduced or stopped. It must be common for people to be in my situation: a few kids needing attention, unable to stay on hold for very long.

As much as I appreciate the payments I do get, Centrelink are a nightmare to deal with. It’s tempting to just tell them to stop, cut me off, I don’t want to jump through their hoops anymore! But… I know I won’t.

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