The department met 29 of its 36 performance measures in 2017–18 through the delivery of its social security and welfare, health, and child support programs.
In comparison, the department met 30 of 36 performance measures in 2016–17 and 31 of 36 performance measures in 2015–16.
Customer-centred service delivery
The department achieved consistent results against its service level standards for its face-to-face, telephony, and digital servicing channels throughout 2017–18. During the year, the department handled around 48 million phone calls and 17 million visits to service centres, and $173 billion in payments. In 2016–17, the department handled 52 million phone calls, 19 million visits to service centres and $174.3 billion in payments.
To meet the demand, the department utilised the flexible structure of its Smart Centres to transfer staff between telephony and processing-based work. The integration of new systems designed to simplify and improve claims processing performance resulted in a period of adjustment, which required additional training and development for staff who process claims. This is reflected in the department’s performance.
The department continued to improve and expand the services that it offers to ensure they remain high quality, timely and accessible for the community. Examples of this work included:
- Establishing a dedicated helpdesk to advise and support people whose identity information has been lost, stolen or compromised.
- Developing targeted resources to help health professionals and peak bodies in understanding Medicare and other health-related programs. These new resources include a number of new eLearning programs and modules, and enhancements to existing resources.
- Introducing a new rent review and rent certificate to make it quicker and easier for customers to update their accommodation circumstances. This encourages rent assistance customers to keep their rent details up to date so their payment can be correctly assessed and they can avoid a debt.
- The department conducting extensive user testing and consultation with community and welfare organisations to enhance the online portal and associated letters for compliance purposes. The department’s user-centric approach has helped customers to better understand and meet their compliance obligations.
The analysis above provides a sample of the department’s work in 2017–18 to simplify services and communicate more effectively with customers. This aligns with the department’s purpose to deliver payments to the community on behalf of the Australian Government either directly via face-to-face and telephone or through digital channels.
Working with partner agencies
The department delivers payments and associated services to the community on behalf of partner agencies, either directly via face-to-face and telephone or through the department’s digital channels. Examples of this new work included:
- The new Disability Support Pension process, which has led to a decrease in claim processing times, with claimants being advised of assessment outcomes much earlier.
- The implementation of the first stage of Increasing Choice in Home Care. In 2017, many home care providers were still lodging paper claims, and, in some cases, were several months behind in their claims. To address this, the department improved the online self service process and increased direct support to service providers. This resulted in an increase in online claim lodgement from 68% to over 90%.
These examples demonstrate how the department is committed to working with partner agencies to improve customer outcomes. This aligns with the department’s purpose to deliver payments and services on behalf of partner agencies.
A key aim of the department is to deliver digital services that support individuals, families and communities to be self-sufficient and manage their own affairs.
The department is committed to improving the delivery of welfare payments and making it easier for people to claim online. The department is transforming its processing system, with more payments and services moving from old technology into new platforms. Enhancements are being made to the digital channel, which is improving the customer experience. The enhancements include stronger initial advice to claimants about their eligibility, and the ability for claimants to monitor the progress of their claims. This will reduce the need for claimants to contact the department through the telephony and face-to-face channels.
The department also carried out a number of technology enhancements to promote digital transactions, including simplifying claims processes. Examples of this work included:
- New self service options to help customers to access their Income Management money and be more self-sufficient. These include the Express Plus Centrelink mobile app and online services. People can use these services to complete transactions such as transferring funds between their Income Management and BasicsCard account and checking their BasicsCard balance.
- The department’s Customer Engagement Officers assisting customers with complex circumstances to increase their capacity for greater self-sufficiency. They also work with third-party organisations to support them in enabling and empowering these individuals to self-manage their departmental business and access mainstream payments and services. The department had over 90 Customer Engagement Officers, who had relationships with over 1,700 third-party organisations and their customers.
- The number of Centrelink payment summaries issued via surface mail continued to significantly decline. In 2011–12, over five million paper payment summaries were issued. This year the number has declined to 222,000. By comparison, approximately 2.5 million payment summaries were accessed via the department’s digital services.
- A new Child Support staff user interface being implemented. This has been an important first step in modernising the systems that staff use to deliver Child Support services. In October 2017, the department commenced a staged release of new online services that have made it easier for customers to find information, update their details, and advise the department when their circumstances change.
- From August 2017, customers are no longer required to attend a service centre to repay outstanding advance payment balances. Customers are now able to use an online repayment service or make payments at an Australia Post outlet using a special barcode Billpay receipt.
Underpinning this work, the department’s ICT platforms that support uninterrupted access were available over 99% of the time, enabling greater uptake of digital services.
The department continues to transform itself to support customers now and into the future. The work outlined above is an example of how the department is taking advantage of improved technology. This supports the department’s purpose to deliver digital services that support individuals, families and communities to be self-sufficient and manage their own affairs.