Every day the Department of Human Services (the department) supports millions of Australians from all demographics, backgrounds and ages. We will provide social welfare, health or child support services to almost every Australian at some time in their life.
We also provide critical, tailored support to communities and individuals in times of crisis. In 2016–17 we provided much needed support to Australians affected by Tropical Cyclone Debbie, and separately, to those affected by the dairy industry downturn.
In 2016–17 the department successfully delivered $174.3 billion in payments to recipients and providers. We processed more than 3.8 million social security and welfare claims, over 60,000 aged care claims and delivered more than 399 million Medicare services. We also worked with separated parents to transfer money to support approximately 1.2 million children, including those children covered under private collection arrangements.
Over the year, we continued to focus on improving the delivery of services, in particular, digital services. In total we delivered over 700 million digital, online and telephone self-service transactions. The department also handled around 52 million calls and 19 million visits to our service centres.
The department’s mobile service centres covered over 74,000 kilometres and reached some of the most remote communities in Australia. The mobile service centres also provided accessible support to those living in disaster affected communities.
Throughout 2016–17 the department continued to focus on engaging Australians across our channels, enhancing their experience and delivering faster, more seamless services.
We understand people find it frustrating when their calls are unanswered or they have to wait. Addressing wait times through the introduction of integrated and efficient digital services, and in 2017–18 through additional call centre capacity, will remain a priority for the department.
Our social media capability continues to grow, further reducing the need for people to call the department. In 2016–17 the department’s 18 social media accounts reached an audience of 1.5 million monthly with service delivery messages. We receive an average of 10,800 questions and respond to around 4,000 posts each month.
As we expand and improve our services, particularly our digital services, we have continued to invest in the protection of data and systems. Through strengthening our cyber security capabilities and governance, we have ensured continuity of service for millions of Australians. In March 2017 the Australian National Audit Office found the department had effective cyber security governance arrangements and is cyber resilient.
Data-matching, sending letters, and assessing and calculating differences in income and payments has been at the core of the department’s welfare compliance activities since the 1990s. In 2016–17 the department introduced an online compliance portal enabling people to confirm their information at a time convenient for them, quickly and simply.
The introduction of the online portal did not change how data-matching was undertaken or the way income was assessed and differences calculated. However, the initial rollout gave rise to public controversy.
The department introduced a range of enhancements to ensure the online compliance system’s long-term sustainability. Additionally, we have implemented the constructive and practical enhancements suggested by the Commonwealth Ombudsman, who found the online compliance system was designed appropriately and accurately calculates debts.
Key to our successful delivery of valuable and effective services has been our ability to transform over time to meet the changing expectations of government and the Australian community.
This year the department made important progress in relation to the Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation (WPIT) Programme, the Farm Household Allowance, myGov, the Cashless Debit Card, and the Child Support System Redesign Project.
In 2017 the WPIT Programme commenced Tranche Two and moved from planning into delivery. WPIT is improving the department’s business rules and processes, enabling us to meet the evolving preferences and expectations of those who use our services. As part of WPIT we are also replacing complex and ageing information and communications technology (ICT) infrastructure.
During 2016–17 WPIT began to deliver real improvements for students as new payment services and improved business processes were rolled out. The introduction of the Circumstance Change Monitor, which allows students to track the progress of their claim through digital channels, has already reduced the number of contacts via phone.
The implementation of improved business processes has also resulted in significant improvements for students claiming Youth Allowance or Austudy. Under the new processes, which reject incomplete claims or those that do not meet basic eligibility criteria, processing time has significantly reduced.
In June 2017 the department also created a new senior role—the Chief Citizen Experience Officer—as part of our increased focus on user-centred design. The Chief Citizen Experience Officer is responsible for ensuring the systems we use meet community needs and expectations.
The department continued to work with other government agencies to deliver services throughout the year. Working with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, we delivered the Farm Household Allowance to those affected by the dairy industry downturn. We also continued to work with the Department of Social Services on the delivery of the Cashless Debit Card Trial.
Working closely with the Digital Transformation Agency, we delivered significant improvements to myGov in response to community feedback. Drawing on a user-centred design approach, we introduced simpler sign-in arrangements, a new layout and design, and improved access on mobile devices. These improvements have made it easier for people to access important government services.
We worked with the Department of Health in planning to modernise and replace outdated systems that support health, aged care and related veterans’ payments. We also continued to build upon the range of services we provide to the National Disability Insurance Agency, which includes ICT solutions, access to the department’s contact centre staff, and shared corporate services.
The department also progressed the Child Support System Redesign Project and the Integrated Child Care ICT solution in order to provide new and sustainable platforms and program delivery capabilities.
Delivering and improving our services is made possible by our dedicated and hard‑working staff. As we transform our business the department is also creating an agile and resilient workforce that can support and drive change. Continuing to invest in our people is a priority.
As the principal delivery arm of government we are required to maintain a flexible workforce to enable us to respond quickly to future challenges. We continue to balance our workforce profile to ensure we have the right mix of Australian Public Service (APS) and non-APS expertise. This ensures we can implement new initiatives while meeting the performance standards set by government.
The department’s ability to deliver services to all Australians continues to be underpinned by our workforce’s diversity. Through our Workplace Accessibility Plan 2016–19, we continue to increase the representation of people with disability in our workforce. This builds on our successful initiatives with the Dandelion Program, Scanning Operations Centre, and Koomarri JobMatch Team that all support the employment of people with disability.
The department has continued to increase Indigenous representation in our workforce as well as improve support provided to our Indigenous staff and recipients. At 30 June 2017, 4.7 per cent of employees identified as being from an Indigenous background, up from 4.2 per cent at 30 June 2016. The department has also implemented an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employees Plan 2016–17 and remains the only department to have achieved ‘Elevate’ status from Reconciliation Australia.
Our Multicultural Servicing Strategy 2016–19 focuses on ensuring our programs and services are responsive to the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) Australians. At 30 June 2017, 25.2 per cent of employees were from a CALD background, up from 23.9 per cent at 30 June 2016.
In 2016–17 bargaining for a new Enterprise Agreement continued. In September 2017 a new Enterprise Agreement was supported by staff. We will work with the Fair Work Commission to finalise the agreement as soon as possible.
I would like to again thank staff for their continued dedication and commitment to providing service excellence and supporting all those who rely upon us each and every day. Over my six and a half years as Secretary I have been inspired by our staff and their commitment and passion for public service.
Kathryn Campbell, CSC
Department of Human Services