childcare rebate

Childcare rebates spark “Telephone Line” flashback

Centrelink's blocked phone lines are causing payment delays for families claiming childcare rebates, here's some tips on navigating the system.

2175 0

It’s been about 10 unanswered calls and nearly a month since I applied to Centrelink for the childcare rebate, and only now the song Telephone Line by Electric Light Orchestra rings in my ears. What’s wrong with me and what importantly what can we do about it?

It might be that nothing is actually wrong with me, or hundreds, thousands or possibly millions of people who are among the 220,000 callers who successfully contact Centrelink each day. It’s the system – and the phone and service system to be exact.

One Dad who contacted Financy on Twitter said he’d called Centrelink 40 times before someone actually picked up the phone to help him process the childcare rebate.

While a mum who commented on Financy Facebook post said she’s tried 20 times, and is still trying.

As Financy and Fairfax Media reported earlier this week, overworked Centrelink staff are blocking phone lines and fudging call waiting times to meet their performance targets.

Centrelink’s response is that it’s “antiquated” telephone system is being updated as we speak.

This should help to improve wait times but millions of Australian parents still have months if not a good year before they see any real improvement.

“The department is in the process of introducing a new telephony platform for Centrelink phone lines, which will allow us to better manage call wait times and respond to customer calls,” says Hank Jongen department of human services general manager.

“Major work is also currently underway to replace the department’s antiquated IT system. In the longer term, the overhaul of our IT system will allow us to modernise the delivery of welfare payments and services,” he said.

Last year Centrelink said it receives 55.8 million calls a year about Centrelink, Child Support and Medicare services.

So how do you get through to the other end of the Telephone line?

Well here are some quick tips from Financy and Lisa Newman, the deputy national president of the Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU).

  • Bypass the main Families Assistance Line and call direct to the Centrelink complaints line
  • Call first thing in the morning as soon as lines open – which is around 8am.
  • Send an email to Centrelink complaints

But we’re not convinced that’s all people can do.

So we’ve asked Centrelink’s media team for more insights and tips on how our readers can work with the current system until those much needed improvements make all the hassle seem like a distant memory.

Stay tuned.


Subscribe to Financy®

Get your Financy fortnightly fix with Financy Rewards, content and more. Plus each quarter you'll receive the latest Financy Women's Index, helping you keep pace with women's financial progress.

In this article