Interacting with Centrelink Services

Beng Poh

30 August 2018

A new research report has been released today by the Anglicare Australia network, and initiated by Anglicare Tasmania’s Social Action and Research Centre (SARC).   This report examines the impact of the ongoing automation of Centrelink services on vulnerable clients, on staff, and on outcomes for our community service programs.

A summary brief of this research can be found here, and a blog post with an overview here.

This research was initiated because of a perception across our services that increased Centrelink automation is not meeting the needs of some Australians, particularly those experiencing complex life circumstances or high levels of vulnerability. Additionally, increased automation in Centrelink is resulting in unintended consequences for community sector staff in terms of increased time and other resources required to assist clients with Centrelink-related matters.

This research was undertaken across three jurisdictions; Anglicare Southern Queensland, Anglicare Tasmania, and Anglicare Western Australia. It involved surveys and face to face interviews with a total of 218 staff, and the collection of 18 client case studies across several community services areas including accommodation support and homelessness services, financial counselling, mental health services, domestic violence, alcohol and other drug services, gambling and family support.

Australia is in the midst of a major reform to the way in which the income support system is delivered. This involves automation of the system and a move towards self-sufficiency for customers as well as changes to eligibility criteria, assessment processes and the compliance framework for a number of different payments.  While this shift to automation provides convenience and efficiency for some Australians as they access and navigate the social security system, our research indicates that for many people it presents distressing barriers to accessing the income support to which they are entitled.

Anglicare believe that, in progressing an automation agenda for the Centrelink system, the Federal Government should identify and accommodate the needs of its most vulnerable citizens.  This research indicates that this is not occurring effectively, and is resulting in people missing out on income support to which they are entitled.  More alarmingly, in some cases Anglicare see an overwhelming level of distress and confusion caused by the automation agenda, causing people to disengage from the system altogether which puts them at risk of poverty, homelessness, and very poor health outcomes.

The research also concludes that although welfare reform may be leading to cost savings for the Department of Human Services (DHS), substantial costs are being shifted to vulnerable customers and the community services that support them.

For further information or to discuss the report contact Meg Webb on 6213 3566.