Transcripts

Triple J - Hack - with Tom Tilley

10-May-2016


Subjects: Youth allowance and Austudy.

EO&E...........................................................................................................................................

TOM TILLEY:   

Alan Tudge, welcome back to the program.

 

ALAN TUDGE:

G'day Tom, how's it going?

 

TOM TILLEY:   

Very well. You made a big, bold promise two weeks ago. What do you say to Tom just there who's been waiting for three months?

 

ALAN TUDGE: 

Well if somebody has been waiting that amount of time typically it's because they either haven't provided the information which they need to provide, or they themselves have asked for a reassessment because they've been given an assessment which they don't like. So that explains most of the people who were beyond- who have been waiting a reasonable length of time.

 

TOM TILLEY:  

All right. Well we heard in the Senate Estimates that there are still 12,500 Youth Allowance and Austudy claims to be processed, so that doesn't sound like you've cleared the whole backlog. Have you been caught out overpromising?

 

ALAN TUDGE: 

No, last time we spoke, which was two or three weeks ago, there were about 32,000 claims on hand, and I said we would get through the backlog within those couple of weeks basically from now, and we have got through that backlog. So the 12,400 claims that are on hand as of today, now that constitutes just under three weeks' worth of claims. So we get about 4000, a bit over 4000 claims made every single week, so 12,400 is just under three weeks' worth.

 

TOM TILLEY:  

Yeah, but we spoke to you two weeks ago, so that's about 8000 claims, but there's 12,500 thousand so there's still a backlog.

 

ALAN TUDGE:

Yeah, but it does take a few weeks- it takes a few weeks though for every single claim that's put in to be managed through the process.

 

TOM TILLEY:   

Okay. There's been concern that you're clearing the backlog by just rejecting people faster. We heard one Centrelink worker say there that the process of rejecting people has changed. He told us generally they call someone before they reject them in case there's an easy way to resolve the issue with the application, but other workers who had been brought on to deal with the backlog aren't being told to do that and they're rejecting people straight away without calling them. So are you clearing the backlog by rejecting people faster?

 

ALAN TUDGE: 

No, we're clearing the backlog because we increased the number of staff working on it by fourfold – literally four times as many staff which are working on these claims than were previously, and that's because there was a large peak and people were waiting a long time. So we put four times as many staff on and now we have dealt with the backlog and we're basically back to business as usual, processing the claims largely as they come through. It still takes a few weeks to do, but we've got rid of that backlog.

 

TOM TILLEY:   

You're listening to Alan Tudge who is the Human Services Minister. We're holding him to account on his promise from two weeks ago that they'd clear the backlog of late payments. On the text line: I work at Centrelink and a lot of my calls are progress of claims, but we don't get any training to look into this properly. People ring up and we just say yeah, nah, it's all here and it'll get processed soon, but in reality we have no idea what to look for. We're just told to fake it til you make it. It's a common phrase that's been thrown around from our first day. That doesn't fill too many of us with hope that things are being done well within Centrelink.

Now, Alan Tudge, we heard in that story that there's been some conjecture around your claim on our show that you had an unprecedented number of claims. Here's what you said two weeks ago.

[Excerpt]

ALAN TUDGE:

Well we've had over 250,000 claims for payments just this calendar year alone, which is an unprecedented number of claims.       

[End of excerpt]

 

TOM TILLEY:  

Now, that was picked up by Senator Doug Cameron in Senate Estimates last week. He said there were over 344- or there were 344,000 claims for Centrelink this financial year, compared to 424 last year. So that's 80,000 more last year, so were your claims exaggerated?


ALAN TUDGE: 

We did have an unprecedented number of claims on hand at that particular time, which I think was about 90,000 which we peaked at that particular time …

 

TOM TILLEY:   

[Interrupts] So- you were talking about the calendar year, I remember that quite clearly.

 

ALAN TUDGE: 

Yeah, that's right, and so that was the number which I had on hand from January through to when we last spoke, Tom, which was a couple of weeks ago, where we had 250,000 claims which were made this year.

Can I just pick you up as well on that particular claim on the- where you said you had a Centrelink staff member say that she was just making it up as she went along for people who were inquiring about the status of their claim.

Now, I have not heard that before, that's the first I've heard of it, but what I can say is we're actually upgrading the IT systems as we speak so that in the future our ambition is that you'll be able to look at your app or go online and you'll be able to see exactly where your claim is at, so that an individual who has got a claim in the process won't have to call up and speak to a person on the phone, rather they can just get that information in real time online.

 

TOM TILLEY:  

Okay, well that sounds like good news. Now it's going to be interesting to see if systems like that help, but also whether there's enough resources in the department so that we don't end up in this situation again, because in the Budget last week your Government announced $80 million of cuts to the Department of Human Services which runs Centrelink. You're already struggling; how can you afford to cut $80 million out of Human Services?

 

ALAN TUDGE: 

Well as you know we've basically been operating on fewer resources over time, and partly because we've become more efficient. We've got more people who are applying for things online rather than calling up in the call centres or going into a shopfront, and overall that's our ambition. It's much cheaper, obviously, to process things digitally than it…

 

TOM TILLEY:   

Sure, but it's not working. Look at what's happened in the last few months.

 

ALAN TUDGE: 

So- well we've gone through all this though, Tom, over the last few months. We had a spike, we put on four times as many people, and that spike has now been resolved and we're back to business as usual, running on a quick rate of about 12,000 on hand, which as I've said is about three weeks' worth of claims.

 

TOM TILLEY:   

Sure, but how can you cut $80 million and not expect this to happen again?

 

ALAN TUDGE:

You've got to keep this into perspective. I mean, all departments get efficiency gains each and every year. This represents about two per cent of the overall expenditure for the Human Services Department. We are doing things better, we have got some things which are no longer being done by Human Services, it might be being done by another department, so there's rational reasons for that. Our commitment is that this does not impact on the front line service…

 

TOM TILLEY:  

Well all our listeners hope not, and I guess- yeah, I'm worried maybe, Alan Tudge, you and I will be having this exact conversation this time next year.

 

ALAN TUDGE:

Well I'm happy to come back onto your program Tom. But a couple of weeks ago I did make the commitments that we'd get through that backlog. You said you'd hold me to account; I'm back on your show today to say that we have.

Yes there are still some claims which are taking longer than usual, but largely that's because either the person hasn't provided the information which they need, or they have indeed asked for a reassessment. But otherwise, most people should've had their claims dealt with. I would say one final point on this, Tom, as well …


TOM TILLEY:  

Go ahead.

 

ALAN TUDGE:

… is that I know on your last episode you had a lot of people who rang up and sort of said listen, I'm really struggling here, I haven't got my payments. We've always had a hardship provision in there, whereby if you're suffering from hardship you can get your claim expedited, and that's always been the case.

 

TOM TILLEY:  

Okay, Liz has called in from Melbourne. Liz, you got your claim expedited. How did that happen?

 

CALLER LIZ:     

Okay, so I was on the expedition list for a very long time – I actually claimed back in November. It got to the stage where I was struggling so much I actually emailed my MP begging him to do something about it …

 

TOM TILLEY:   

[Interrupts] Right, and who's that?

 

CALLER LIZ:     

Oh god, this is really embarrassing. I can't remember.

 

TOM TILLEY:   

Memorable, memorable person.

 

CALLER LIZ:     

Yeah, I know right? But I emailed them like- because my classmates are, like, starving at the moment and I was begging him for funding. I got a call from Human Services probably yesterday. They fixed my claim up; it turns out I gave them all the information. They actually admitted to me that back in November – the guy was lovely by the way – but he basically admitted to me that back in November they had actually opened my claim and whoever opened my claim hadn't actually processed it any further, and that was opened back in November.

 

TOM TILLEY:   

Alan Tudge- yeah, that sounds pretty hopeless. Alan Tudge, is that the answer, call your local MP and they'll get the Human Services Department to sort it out?

 

ALAN TUDGE: 

I mean this sounds like an unusual claim, this particular one from the person who has called in.

 

TOM TILLEY:   

Liz in Melbourne there, yeah.

 

ALAN TUDGE: 

Yes, the Members of Parliament are here to assist if there are particular bureaucratic issues that you're facing. I mean that's why we're here, and I deal with people on an almost weekly basis who are facing either Centrelink or Medicare or other bureaucratic hurdles that sometimes I can help them with. So, overall though, it sounds like she got expedited because of a hardship provision, and that's what I was referring to before, that we never want to be in a situation where someone – the words that she used was …

 

CALLER LIZ:     

[Interrupts] But I was already told that I was on the hardship provision back in January, and it's May.

 

ALAN TUDGE: 

Yeah, normal course of events is it'll happen literally within a few days, is my understanding, if someone has been found to be suffering from severe hardship, which is a test basically of how much money you've got in your bank account, and if it's shown you don't have much to get by on then your claim gets expedited.

 

TOM TILLEY:   

All right Liz, we'll move on from that. Thank you so much for telling us about your situation. Good to hear that the payments are starting to roll in, you can get back to a normal life. Good on you.

Alan Tudge, great to have you back on the show to talk through an issue that's clearly so important to so many young people. Thanks for joining us again.

 

ALAN TUDGE: 

Thanks Tom for having me on, and I appreciate that some people have had to wait a bit longer than perhaps what they would've expected. I can reassure them though that they do have their payments backdated as well from when they first made the claim. We have dealt with the backlog, and anybody who was suffering from severe hardship had their claim expedited.

 

TOM TILLEY:   

All right, good on you Alan Tudge. Thanks for joining us.

 

ALAN TUDGE: 

Thanks Tom.

 

(ENDS)



Search this site:
Contact Alan

Electorate Office
420 Burwood Highway
Level 1, Suite 4
Wantirna South VIC 3152

Phone: (03) 9887 3890
Fax: (03) 9887 3893

Email Alan
Community Survey

Facebook iconYou Tube IconRSS Icon

Aston Community Awards 2017
The Aston Community Awards celebrate local Knox volunteers and organisations that make our community great.



Help Stamp Out Ice in Knox

Use the buttons below to see the Aston Ice Report and to add your name to the Knox Drug Rehab Petition.
E-Newsletter
Sign up to receive my e-newsletter

Alan's Latest Tweet