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Seniors out of pocket as Centrelink struggles to cope

Age Pension assessment wait times have blown out – but there is something you can do to speed things up.

  • News
  • Read Time: 4 mins

Centrelink has confirmed it has a backlog of nearly 34,000 Age Pension claims, with processing now taking an average of 72 days.

If you’re thinking of phoning Centrelink about your claim, you might want to think again. You’ll probably have to wait at least 30 minutes on hold.

Centrelink blames not having enough staff to deal with the workload but general manager of the Department of Human Services, Hank Jongen, hopes recent funding for 3,000 more employees will turn things around.

Federal Minister for Government Services, Bill Shorten, says it will take six months before the public sees a difference.

“We’ve got a backlog of over a million payments,” he told the ABC. “I really want to get waiting times on phone calls down.

“But let’s give it the next six months. I don’t expect new staff to produce miracles.”

According to Centrelink, reasons for delays in claim processing include applicants not supplying all the necessary information, or having complex financial affairs that need to be appropriately assessed through third parties.

ABC Radio recently highlighted the case of West Australian woman Adele McIntosh-Jackson, who has been waiting since August last year and still hasn’t had her claim approved.

Ms McIntosh-Jackson had been working but was hoping to reduce her hours when she first applied for a partial pension. Her situation became urgent in December, when she fell and broke her ankle. She has been unable to work since.

She has been told that the delay is because she has worked as an independent sub-contractor rather than an employee.

What to do

If your application is urgent and you are experiencing financial hardship, Centrelink suggests visiting one of its offices in person. 

It’s also worth remembering that you can submit your claim up to 13 weeks before you reach the Age Pension age of 67.

If you already get an eligible payment from Centrelink, they will write to you 13 weeks before you reach 67 to tell you how to transfer to the Age Pension.

Information from Centrelink is available here.

Related reading: ABC, Services Australia


John Austin

John Austin

Policy and Communications Officer

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