Aussie welfare agency to boost staff to deal with record-high demand

CANBERRA, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- Australia's national welfare agency will hire an additional 1,500 staff to cope with the 1 million phone calls it receives every day, the government announced Wednesday.

Human Services Minister Michael Keenan made the announcement on Wednesday that the Centrelink would hire 1,500 extra contractors to deal with demand for social services.

It comes after the agency hired 1,000 contracting staff in April and 250 staff in December 2017.

According to information provided by Centrelink to a Senates Estimates committee earlier this year, 33.2 million calls to assistance lines were not answered in the nine months to the end of March.

Overall, Centrelink receives more than 1 million incoming phone calls every day. The average wait time for callers at the end of March was almost 16 minutes.

"We've been looking at the way we manage calls to make sure it is as efficient as possible and make sure you get to talk to someone in the first instance who can answer your query," Keenan told Channel Seven news on Wednesday.

Contracts for the new staff have been awarded to private-sector service providers including global contracting giant Serco.

Keenan said that his preference was for all government services to eventually be available via the MyGov online portal.

"Over time, I would like people to interact on the digital channels so you can sit on your couch and do everything you need to do with the government," he said.

"Whilst we undergo that transformation, I would like to ensure people still get the service experience that they need."

Centrelink is in charge of delivering government payments and services for the unemployed, elderly, students, indigenous Australians, people with disabilities and families requiring assistance.

[ Editor: WPY ]


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