Staff doubled to deal with age pension backlog
THE Federal Government has been forced to almost double the number of staff processing age pension claims but won't acknowledge the extent of the backlog of people waiting to receive their entitlements.
Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen said more than 129 extra full-time staff had already been allocated to speed up processing times with a further 76 to be added this month.
The additional workers bring to 442 the total staff processing age pension claims, almost double the 237 previously assigned to the task.
However Mr Jongen and the government continued to avoid questions about when the problem will be resolved, the number of people waiting to be paid and how much they are owed.
They were first put to the department last Friday by the Daily following complaints from Sunshine Beach retiree Geoff Potter who submitted his paperwork in May ahead of his 65th birthday in June but was still to receive a cheque by September.
Mr Potter said he had approached the office of Member for Wide Bay Llew O'Brien, only to be told the department was still clearing the claims of those due payment in March.
Following questions from the Daily Mr Potter, a highly-respected former Noosa News and Sunshine Coast Daily photographer, was contacted with advice his claim would be prioritised.
Contact was swift, with Mr Potter speaking to a department officer on Friday and receiving on Monday his full entitlement including back pay to June.
Mr Jongen said the Department of Human Services worked hard to ensure all claims were processed efficiently, with most processed in under 49 days, however, in some cases it may take a "little" longer.
"We have made age pension claims a priority - over 129 extra full-time staff have already been allocated to speed up processing times and a further 76 will be added this month, bringing the total number of staff processing age pension claims to 442,'' he said.
"A large number of age pension claims received do not have all the supporting documentation needed for staff to assess them - they can't be progressed until individuals provide this information.
"Anyone experiencing severe financial hardship should let us know as soon as possible so we can prioritise their claim."
In May the Department of Human Services confirmed 918 workers would lose their jobs in 2016-17.
The Canberra Times reported the department would see its funding reduced by $100 million year-on-year, thanks in part to a "special" efficiency cut of $20 million a year.