Annual Report 2016-17

Service Delivery Transformation - Annual Report 2015-16

During the year, the department continued to contribute significantly to the development and implementation of the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Agenda. The agenda is about delivering services that are faster, simpler and easier to use. We have worked closely with the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) to drive this agenda. We progressed our Digital Transformation Plan for 2016-17 that describes our approach to meet the government’s requirements under this agenda.

Work also commenced in the latter part of the year on the department’s Digital Transformation Strategy which outlines how the department will drive digital transformation over the next 6 years to deliver efficient and cost-effective services. In working with the DTO, the department is drawing on its strong service delivery transformation capability to support a whole-of-government approach to improving user-centric digital services. For example, the department led 1 of the 6 initial DTO ‘exemplar’ projects focusing on Medicare enrolments. The exemplar projects were used to demonstrate and test the DTO methodology which includes an agile design and delivery process, with the release of a minimum viable product within 20 weeks.

We continued to invest in digital services to make it simpler and easier for customers to do business with government. This led to increased self-management and use of digital channels.

In 2015-16 the use of the myGov digital service increased, with over 9.5 million active accounts at 30 June 2016 compared to 7 million active accounts at 30 June 2015.

The myGov digital service gives users secure and easy access to a range of government online services, a secure digital inbox to receive mail from participating member services, and the ability to update address details in 1 place and have that information automatically notified to participating member services, such as the Australian Taxation Office.

The department also strengthened partnerships with other government agencies to help them with service transformation. For example, in 2016 we supported the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA) which started important work on transforming services for the veteran community.

Digital and Online Services

Table 64: Transactions for digital and online services
  2013-14 2014-15 2015-16
Self-service transactions 102.0 million 118.3 million 119.9 million
Self-service transactions 4.0 million 5.4 million 9.4 million
Provider ‘point of service’ digital transactions1 556.0 million 576.0 million 588.0 million
Child Support
Self-service transactions2 183,000 230,000 890,000

1. Point of service digital transactions include PBS Online, online bulk billing, Easyclaim and ECLIPSE (Electronic Claim Lodgement and Information Processing Service Environment).

2. As of 2015-16, Child Support ‘Self-service transactions’ data includes phone self-service transactions.

Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation

The Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation (WPIT) Programme started on 1 July 2015. This significant multi-year transformation programme will allow government to properly address many of the challenges facing Australia’s welfare system, maximise the benefits of eGovernment, and reduce the costs of administering the system for taxpayers. This business transformation, enabled by information and communications technology (ICT), will:

  • position the department to meet the future policy needs of government
  • provide users of the welfare system with faster, more connected and automated digital government services
  • give staff a modern ICT platform that makes it easier for them to do their jobs

The WPIT Programme will provide a flexible, efficient and effective business model supported by modern technology. It will change government service delivery to better meet the demands of today’s digital world and deliver an agile, sustainable and responsive welfare payment system for users.

The department will implement the programme over several years in multiple tranches. This phased approach is based on industry best practice and gives us flexibility to review progress and adapt to changes.

The first step in engaging commercial partners to work with us to deliver on the WPIT Programme was an approach to the market, on 18 September 2015, through a formal Request for Expressions of Interest for a Core Software Vendor. This sought responses from experienced and qualified software vendors that could work with the department and third parties to deliver a solution to support the government’s current and future service delivery needs. The selection of the Core Software Vendor continued through a Request for Tender process during the second half of 2015-16.

The department has held discussions with international governments including Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Singapore and New Zealand. Monitoring the progress of similar programmes in other countries and jurisdictions provides the department with insight into international experiences and best practice.

Provider Digital Access

Provider Digital Access (PRODA) is a new online authentication system based on a username, password and verification code to log in. The system is designed to provide simplified, secure access to specific government services.

In November 2015 PRODA became available to health care providers and health administrators to access Health Professional Online Services (HPOS). HPOS allows the flexibility to login to HPOS from any device. See also Online services for health professionals.

Veterans’ services

During the year the department worked in partnership with DVA to develop a proposal to deliver improved services for veterans, supported by modern digital technologies. Engagement with the veteran community and stakeholders, such as ex-service organisations and staff, is also guiding future approaches to veterans’ services. The work on service transformation will change the focus on claims processing to a client-centric approach that delivers fast, accurate and reliable services.

Express Plus mobile apps

The department’s Express Plus mobile apps continue to be a popular and convenient way for customers to engage with government services, allowing customers to have access to services anywhere, at any time. Mobile apps offer digital services allowing users to, for example, upload documents, report income, add a newborn child, claim Medicare, view Child Support account balances, and keep a personal diary.

Since their introduction the department’s Express Plus mobile apps have been downloaded more than 7.8 million times. In 2015-16:

  • over 2.8 million apps were downloaded (an average of just over 7,900 downloads per day) compared to 2.6 million downloads (an average of just over 7,000 downloads per day) in 2014-15
  • over 63 million transactions were completed compared to 61 million transactions in 2014-15


The myGov digital service is a simple, secure way for people to access many Australian Government services online. myGov was reported as being available 99.79% of the time in 2015-16 compared to 99.64% in 2014-15. The myGov digital service allows customers to undertake their business, such as looking for lost superannuation, submitting their income tax returns, and claiming payments at a time and place that suits them.

The department replaced infrastructure to increase the capacity and availability for myGov during December 2015 and January 2016. myGov has also been moved to the department’s new data centre which will assist in improving the performance and availability of the service.

A myGov account offers people a secure account to access 9 online services provided by:

  • the department (Centrelink, Medicare, and Child Support)
  • the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)
  • the Department of Health’s My Health Record
  • the DVA MyAccount
  • the National Disability Insurance Scheme
  • the Department of Employment’s Australian JobSearch
  • the Department of Social Services’ My Aged Care

At 30 June 2016 there were over 9.5 million active myGov accounts (7 million in 2014-15), 59.6 logins to myGov, and 96.4 million navigations to 9 member services using myGov.

During the year myGov continued to improve and expand its functions with the following new features being introduced:

  • Manage ABN connections-individuals in business will be able to more easily access government online services by linking their myGov credential to their ABN
  • Update Your Details-users can now notify the department in 1 transaction about changes to their contact details. The ATO and the Department of Employment automatically receive shared user updates
  • myGov Inbox-the number of department and ATO customers who used this service to receive their digital mail in 1 secure inbox increased from 58.2 million in 2014-15 to 67.9 million in 2015-16
  • Account alias-customers can now choose to sign into their myGov account using either their email address or their myGov username
  • Username validation-the format of all customer myGov usernames or email addresses are now validated, resulting in a 37% reduction in failed sign ins
  • Simplifying myGov security codes-simplified codes have reduced the rate of security code failed sign-ins from 13.14% to 6.31%
  • Reduction in suspension time-the length of time that customers are suspended from accessing their myGov account was significantly reduced from 12 hours to 2 hours

myGov shopfronts

The department and the ATO are taking an integrated service delivery approach in 4 central business district myGov shopfronts in Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth and in a fifth shopfront in Albury, New South Wales. The myGov shopfronts offer integrated service delivery where myGov member services work together to deliver a single customer service model focused on transitioning customers to digital self-managed services.

Customers are supported to set up and use their myGov account, and complete their government transactions either online or via a range of available government mobile apps on their own devices. Free WiFi is available in the shopfronts. Staff also provide face-to-face assistance for simple online transactions and guide customers through their digital journey.

High definition video conferencing pilot

During the year the department continued an innovative pilot that explores and evaluates opportunities for video conferencing technologies. The trial offers face-to-face services through high definition video conferencing targeted to customers who find it difficult to visit a service centre. The department has received positive feedback from customers who have used the technology so far.

In 2015-16 Disability Support Pension customers, social work customers, customers seeking advice from the Financial Information Service, and customers in search of work participated in face-to-face interviews via high definition video conferencing.

The department also commenced Auslan on-demand services using video conferencing technology to ‘virtually’ deliver an Auslan interpreter to service centres when the service is needed. The trial is also exploring technologies that can connect with customers via their mobile devices and tablets.

Electronic messaging

The department continues to increase the types of messages sent through electronic messaging (SMS and email) to communicate with customers. This is helping to reduce the number of letters mailed to customers-see Tables 69 and 70.

Electronic document scanning

The department electronically scans and stores large amounts of customer correspondence. Once a document is scanned the digital image can be accessed electronically for processing by staff located anywhere in Australia. We have now started to use technology to extract information from some digital documents, which reduces the level of staff intervention. The department is also continuing to explore ways to increase automatic processing of data from digital images.

Document Lodgement Service

The Document Lodgement Service is a quick and easy method for customers to submit documents online. Customers can use the service through their Centrelink online account and Express Plus mobile apps.

This service is popular with customers who want to provide their documents electronically, with over 3 million submitted in 2015-16 at an average of 8,200 documents lodged each day. This compares to 1.4 million documents submitted at an average of 2,200 documents lodged each day in 2014-15.

Online claims

Online claims have made a significant contribution to the government’s deregulation agenda. Online claims and personal and circumstance updates contributed more than $24 million in red tape reduction savings for the 2015 calendar year. In 2015-16 over 2.2 million claims were made online compared to 1.8 million claims in 2014-15.

Families, job seekers, students and older Australians can claim a range of Centrelink payments online. In 2015-16, over 75% of claims for Youth Allowance Job Seeker, Youth Allowance Students, Parenting Payment Partnered, Austudy, Paid Parental Leave and Child Care Benefit Claims were submitted online.

Personal details and circumstance updates

During the year the number of customers updating their circumstances online continued to increase. In 2015-16 customers completed over 116 million transactions online and via Express Plus mobile apps compared to 112 million in 2014-15.

Centrelink customers can view and update a range of personal details, as well as notify changes to circumstances online or via mobile apps. This includes contact details, address and accommodation details, a range of income and assets details (including savings, shares, income streams, other income, real estate, managed investments, gifts and deprived assets and foreign income and asset details), study details, overseas travel details and bank account details to receive payments. Customers can also report employment income, request a document, and claim Advance Payments online.

Online income stream reviews

Since August 2014 the department has offered an online service for customers required to undergo income stream reviews. Customers can either access their online account or use a one-time access code to complete the review. Customers can also authorise third party providers, such as financial planners, to use their code to complete the reviews on their behalf.

For the 6 monthly review in February 2016 approximately 60% of older Australians chose to complete their review online, which reduced pressure on processing teams and phone and face‑to‑face staff.

Confirmation eServices

The department’s online Confirmation eServices allow participating businesses and organisations to confirm a person’s entitlement to a concession or rebate. Businesses and organisations such as utility providers, local councils and health providers can electronically confirm a person’s details to:

  • receive a concession, rebate or service-Customer Confirmation
  • request income, assets and payment details for people receiving income support-Income Confirmation
  • assist administrators and trustees of superannuation funds to decide whether superannuation can be released early due to financial hardship-Superannuation Confirmation

In 2015-16 there were 81.5 million Confirmation eServices transactions compared to 67.6 million in 2014-15.

Online services for health professionals

Through HPOS, the department offers health professionals and their administrators a single, secure web portal which provides real-time access to a number of online services.

Additional functionality was added to HPOS in September 2015 to allow Medicare and DVA providers to register bank details when creating new locations through HPOS.

A new way to access HPOS using a username and password logon for HPOS was introduced as a pilot in November 2015.

In May 2016, the department also commenced a trial of a new online PBS authorities system, accessed via HPOS, with approved prescribers applying for PBS authority approvals online instead of by phone.

Table 65: Users accessing HPOS services
  2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 % change
Users 124,582 163,872 209,307 +27.7
Accesses to HPOS 1,946,095 2,897,581 3,929,685 +35.6

Letters and forms

The department continues to encourage people to register for letters online rather than have them sent in hard copy to their mailing address-see Table 67. Customers can receive letters online through their myGov inbox. They are sent an SMS or email to alert them to a new letter.

In 2015-16 we sent 54,277,026 letters online compared to 55,081,039 in 2014-15-see Table 68. The number of letters sent through the mail house decreased from 82,115,117 in 2014-15 to 67,687,057 in 2015-16-see Table 67.

The department also continues to review and revise the content of letters and forms to ensure they are easier to understand.

While we still offer a range of printable claim forms that customers can download, convenient and easy access to online claim forms is increasingly popular. The volume of forms printed and distributed fell from 19,661,735 in 2014-15 to 17,287,546 in 2015-16.

Table 66: Registrations for social welfare service online letters
  2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 % change
Registrations 1,005,215 1,394,108 1,405,301 +0.8
Customers registered at 30 June 2,358,107 3,294,425 4,178,562 +26.8
Percentage of customers registered at 30 June 19.8 27.1 35.9 +32.5
Table 67: Total mail house letters
Mail house letters 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 % change
Letters 60,053,941 46,733,631 37,005,125 -20.8
Correspondence or letters about special initiatives 1,625,704 1,658,190 01 -100.0
Publications 533,815 6,671,5772 2,474,034 -62.9
Medicare 17,270,973 16,074,595 17,387,922 +8.2
Medicare cards 5,856,548 3,957,332 4,130,913 +4.4
Child Support2 7,378,951 7,019,792 6,689,063 -4.7
Total mail house letters 92,719,932 82,115,117 67,687,057 -17.6

1. There were no government initiatives requiring bulk letters.

2. The figures represent total mail packs which include multiple individual items distributed through the department’s mail houses.

Table 68: Online letters
Letters online 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 % change
Centrelink 43,487,116 49,104,303 47,073,502 -4.1
Medicare 620,065 3,064,831 3,670,957 +19.8
Child Support 2,275,995 2,911,905 3,532,567 +21.3
Total letters online 46,383,176 55,081,039 54,277,026 -1.5
Table 69: SMS messages sent to customers
SMS 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 % change
Total SMS 29,145,841 29,709,079 29,029,960 -2.3
Table 70: System generated email messages sent to customers
Email 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 % change
Total email 15,736,084 19,044,282 19,837,060 +4.2

Face-to-Face services

Services provided in our service centres

The department continues to capitalise on the success of one-stop shops which combine Centrelink and Medicare programme service delivery. This enables us to adapt our structure and processes to respond to service delivery trends and challenges. Our focus remains on developing a more flexible and agile service delivery network that better meets customer needs and accommodates the shift to digital services.

One-stop-shops are helping us to build a sustainable, accessible and fit-for-purpose network of service centres. These are proven to reduce service costs and service delivery duplication. This gives the department flexibility to divert more resources to provide targeted and intensive assistance to customers with complex circumstances.

In 2015-16 the department averaged over 85,000 service centre contacts on a daily basis across a national network of 351 service centres. Of these, 215 are one-stop shops compared to 190 one-stop shops in 2014-15. The average wait time in service centres for 2015-16 was 10 minutes and 58 seconds, a marked improvement compared to 12 minutes and 18 seconds in 2014-15.

Co-location with other organisations

The department continued to co-locate with other government agencies and with non-government organisations in service centres to broaden the range of services available in 1 site. Customers can now access services from an increasing number of providers such as the ATO, the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, DVA, the National Disability Insurance Agency, and some state and territory agencies in various locations around Australia.

Mobile service centres

The department has 2 mobile service centres, which travelled continually throughout regional and rural Australia in 2015-16. Priority was given to visiting communities that are greater than 50 kilometres from a service centre. Mobile service centre crews visited 381 towns of which 269 were greater than 50 kilometres from a service centre and helped over 8,900 people. This compares to 2014-15 when 607 towns were visited, of which 428 were more than 50 kilometres from the service centre, and services were provided to over 13,000 people. The significant reduction in the number of towns visited between 2014-15 and 2015-16 is due to changing the number of mobile service centres from 3 to 2.

In December 2015, mobile service centre crews assisted in recovery after the South Australia Pinery bushfires. They spent 9 days in 2 disaster-affected communities helping over 500 people. In May and June 2016, mobile service centres also delivered assistance to dairy farming communities in parts of Victoria and South Australia. They spent 28 days in 49 affected communities helping over 1,100 people.

Access points and agents

At 30 June 2016 the department had 240 Access Points and 350 Agents throughout regional, rural and remote Australia compared to 238 Access Points and 350 Agents in 2014-15.

Access Points provide free self-help facilities where customers can conduct their business with the department. This includes a phone for self-service or calls to the department as well as a fax, photocopier and internet facilities. Access Points can copy and certify proof of identity documents for customers.

As well as providing the same facilities and services as an Access Point, Agents offer face-to-face services to support customer interaction with the department through digital services and to provide general assistance.

Access to DVA information services

Under a revised memorandum of understanding with DVA the department now delivers the Veterans’ Information Service at 21 regional customer service centres-10 in New South Wales, 4 in Victoria, 5 in Queensland, 1 in South Australia and 1 in the Northern Territory.

Community Engagement Services were delivered in Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie and 4 sites in South Australia delivered Veterans Agent Services. In addition the department maintained 3 Veterans’ Information Kiosks and delivered Assisted Services at 2 sites.

The department and DVA continue to work in partnership on measures such as managed investments, welfare payments, Income Management, compliance and fraud initiatives, online concession entitlement confirmation and administration of the Defence Force Income Support Allowance.

Smart Centres

Smart centres are responsible for the delivery of Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support programme services to customers. Phone and processing services are delivered from many locations around Australia that form part of the virtual network. Smart centres are responsible for processing the majority of claims within the department. The smart centre approach is to resolve enquiries at the first point of contact whenever possible and promote the use of self-service options including Express Plus mobile apps and online services.

The flexible structure allows for staff skilled in multiple areas to be deployed based on demand.

The department traditionally experiences seasonal peak periods of demand from January-March and June-September each year, when increased workload is generated by:

  • families income estimates
  • families reconciliation
  • updates to child care information
  • assessing student eligibility for new and changed enrolments for the new academic year and second semester
  • enquiries about the Medicare safety net and Medicare benefit tax statements (where available)
  • child support enquiries about assessments for newly-separated parents and assessments as a result of tax lodgements
  • Schoolkids Bonus enquiries

Smart Centre capacity was also impacted this year by the deployment of staff to the department’s emergency responses to:

  • the South Australia Pinery bushfires in November 2015
  • the Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payments for the Paris attacks in November 2015
  • the Western Australia Waroona bushfires in January 2016
  • the Australian Victim of Terrorism Overseas Payments for the Brussels attacks in March 2016
  • the New South Wales east coast storms and floods in June 2016
  • the Tasmania east coast storms and floods in June 2016

The department, including smart centres, continued to assist people affected by:

  • South Australia bushfires in January 2015
  • Tropical Cyclone Lam in the Northern Territory in February 2015
  • Tropical Cyclone Marcia in Queensland in February 2015
  • Tropical Cyclone Olwyn in Western Australia in March 2015
  • New South Wales east coast storms and flooding in April 2015

In addition to these emergencies the department also responded to people affected by the closure of the Hunter River and Port Stephens fisheries in September 2015.

Phone services

In 2015-16 the department handled 55.8 million calls about Centrelink, Child Support and Medicare programme services compared to 56.8 million in 2014-15.

The 2015-16 Portfolio Budget Statements outlined average speed of answer key performance indicators for each of the programmes with the following targets:

  • Social security and welfare programme:
    • ≤16 minutes average speed of answer-telephony
  • Health programme:
    • ≤30 seconds average speed of answer-Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme authorities and eHealth providers telephony
    • ≤2 minutes average speed of answer-providers telephony
    • ≤7 minutes average speed of answer-customers telephony
    • ≤15 minutes average wait time-face-to-face
  • Child Support Programme
    • ≤3 minutes average speed of answer-telephony
  • The average length of time a customer waited for their call to be answered in 2015-16 was:
    • 15 minutes and 9 seconds for social security and welfare services compared to 15 minutes and 40 seconds in 2014-15
    • 40 seconds for PBS authorities and eHealth providers compared to 25 seconds in 2014-15
    • 1 minute and 27 seconds for health services (provider) compared to 1 minute and 25 seconds in 2014-15
    • 6 minutes and 51 seconds for health services (customer) compared to 5 minutes and 10 seconds in 2014-15
    • 2 minutes and 53 seconds for child support services compared to 2 minutes and 33 seconds in 2014-15

The department continues to focus on improving the customer experience by simplifying and automating many of the department’s telecommunication systems. This includes improvements to:

  • interactive voice response systems, based on the latest technology and customer feedback
  • voice recognition and authentication applications, to simplify self-service registration and identification processes, removing the need for customers to repeat complex personal registration details during each contact

Multilingual smart centre services

Smart centres provide multilingual phone services to customers in languages other than English. Bilingual service officers can finalise most of a customer’s business in a single phone call either directly or with support from interpreters. In 2015-16 service officers on the multilingual lines answered more than 821,600 calls compared to more than 713,000 calls in 2014-15.

Rural smart centre services

Smart centres provide a rural phone service designed specifically to meet the needs of customers in rural and remote communities. Drawing on their knowledge of local rural issues, service officers handle calls and process Farm Household Allowance claims. Service officers also assist with the impact of geographic isolation and changing circumstances such as drought or flood for farmers and their families.

In 2015-16 more than 150,092 calls were answered in rural smart centres compared to more than 193,000 calls in 2014-15. In 2015-16 more than 29,000 Drought Assistance calls were answered in rural smart centres compared to more than 37,000 calls in 2014-15.

Remote smart centre services

The remote smart centre delivers phone services to Indigenous Australians, which includes advice about Indigenous-specific payments. Service officers respond to calls from Indigenous customers, as well as from Agents acting on their behalf in remote areas. The most common questions are about ABSTUDY, Indigenous services, Income Management and the BasicsCard.

In 2015-16 more than 3.5 million calls were answered about Indigenous issues and Income Management compared to 2.8 million calls in 2014-15.

Child Support smart centre services

The department delivers most of its child support services to customers over the phone, in many cases finalising processing in real time. In 2015-16:

  • 2.1 million calls about child support from separating or separated parents were received compared to 2.3 million in 2014-15
  • 17,232 requests for a change of assessment were processed compared to 18,092 in 2014-15

Health and other small business phone services

The department provides phone services for health and other programmes to health professionals, aged care organisations, and small businesses. During 2015-16 these services covered Medicare, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, specialised health and medical services, aged care, and the Small Business Superannuation Clearing House. In 2015-16 these phone services handled 14.2 million calls compared to 14.5 million in 2014-15.

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Page last updated: 5 July 2018