Frustrated jobseekers hoping for coronavirus welfare support say they are receiving long-awaited calls from Centrelink, only for the line to cut out, leaving them unsure of what to do next.
- Many hoping for JobSeeker welfare support are finding the system difficult to navigate
- Some are reporting phone calls with Centrelink staff are disconnecting
- Centrelink says it is working with its telephone provider to address the issue
Services Australia has finalised more than 200,000 claims over the past few weeks for the Government’s JobSeeker payment, formerly known as Newstart, which has been boosted to help Australians through the pandemic.
But others are still waiting and finding the system difficult to navigate, including Victorian woman Penny Toppin who recently lost her administration job.
She received a call after registering her intent to claim the JobSeeker payment online.
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“[The staff member] asked me my name and whether I was applying for the payment, I said yes and then it hung up,” Ms Toppin said.
“They don’t call you back, they call off a private number.
“It’s just ridiculous, I think that they’re just adding to people’s stress.”
Anna, who did not want her surname used, said she had also received a call which dropped out part way through.
“I get a recorded message about verifying my identity, etcetera, and then it goes through to the next part that says, ‘all our operators are busy, please hold’ and then literally cuts out to a weird beeping and then hangs up,” she said.
“It’s happened to me twice this week. I’m just waiting to hear about JobSeeker payments.”
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Services Australia acknowledged the disconnections in response to complaints on its Facebook page.
“Thank you for your patience and we understand that this must be frustrating for you. We’re sorry your calls were disconnected, please try calling us back at a time that suits you,” it said.
In a statement, general manager Hank Jongen said the agency was working with its telephone provider to address the issue.
He said if customers missed a call or if it disconnects, they should call the JobSeeker phone line on 132 850.
“We’re taking every possible step to support Australians at this most difficult time,” Mr Jongen said.
“In the past two weeks, we have answered over one million calls, and processed a record number of claims.”
Phone line open over the Easter break
Many people have complained they cannot get through to Centrelink on the phone as coronavirus-related job losses put immense pressure on the system.
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Mr Jongen said the JobSeeker line was now being staffed from 8:00am to 8:00pm AEST on business days and would also be open on Easter Saturday and Easter Monday between 9:00am and 5:00pm.
“JobSeeker claims processing will continue through the Easter period to help get payments to people as soon as possible,” he said.
“There are now more than 6,200 additional staff allocated to call centres and processing.”
He said people who are already receiving eligible payments do not need to call to receive the $550 a fortnight coronavirus supplement or the two $750 economic support payments.
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