Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation

Media release: Increasing Centrelink's call capability

23 April 2018

The Hon Michael Keenan MP

Minister for Human Services and Digital Transformation

The Turnbull Government is delivering a significant boost to Centrelink’s call centre capability by engaging 1000 additional operators to help ease the burden on busy phone lines.

Centrelink receives about one million calls every week and there are times – particularly in peak periods – when our customers tell us it is not always easy to get through on the phone.

Our investment in these 1000 operators will greatly enhance our ability to answer more calls and ensure that the service we deliver is in line with customer expectations.

The move follows a successful pilot program which began in October last year with the engagement of an additional 250 call centre workers through a service delivery agreement with Serco.

The Serco contract, worth $51.7 million over three years, is separate to the 1000 operators being announced today, and brings the total number of additional staff to 1250.

In just six months, the Serco staff have answered more than 1.4 million calls, or up to 14,500 extra per day. Those staff, along with other recent improvements to the way calls are managed, have helped to halve the number of busy signals customers experience.

An independent evaluation of the Serco pilot also found that staff were efficient and were giving the department greater flexibility around peak demand periods.

Like the 250 Serco staff, the 1000 operators will be employed by service delivery providers.

This Government initiative will not result in any of Centrelink’s employees losing their jobs.

The use of private providers to carry out call centre functions is not new. Labor introduced the model in 2008 at the Australian Taxation Office where it has worked effectively.

Engaging a service provider also makes good business sense for the government as call volumes are expected the steadily decline over the next few years as we continue to roll out the Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation program, known as WPIT.

This program will allow most claims to be lodged and processed online, making the process faster and easier for benefit recipients. Customers will also have access to digital assistants to answer many of their questions, further reducing demand on our phone services.

WPIT’s benefits will not be realised overnight. But the additional call centre capability we are investing in now will help us to keep pace with current demands while we deliver our digital transformation agenda.

The process of selecting service delivery partners will begin soon, following an internal consultation period with staff.

It will be a requirement that all workers are based in Australia, providing local jobs for more Australians and their families.  

Page last updated: 23 April 2018