Senior staff from the Department of Human Services told Senate estimates on March 2 that the average wait time to speak to a Centrelink operator is 14 minutes and 10 seconds.
But with reports of some people waiting more than an hour, 28 million busy signals so far this year, and welfare recipients being encouraged to go online rather than speak to someone, this doesn’t match with most people’s experiences of calling Centrelink.
This is because what’s not included in the reported wait time is probably more important than what is.
We’ve created this graphic – based on new data from 2015-16 calls confirmed by the Department of Human Services – to explain what’s really going on when Centrelink says its wait time is under 16 minutes. And you can read an analysis piece by Paul Henman on the issue here.
The Department of Human Services reported at Senate estimates that so far this financial year (up to January 31) 28 million calls received a busy signal, and more than 4 million calls were abandoned while waiting on the line.
A spokesperson for the department said that it would not go into detail beyond what was offered at estimates at this time. So, it’s not possible to know whether there has been a surge in calls overall on the current data.
But it is clear that more people are struggling to get through than ever before.