“In a country like Australia where people have worked hard and paid taxes their whole life, it’s simply not fair that government makes it hard to apply for the age pension,” Paul Rogan, CEO of Centrelink age pension specialist Retirement Essentials, said.
“Beyond those who are simply frustrated, there are many eligible people who actually give up on accessing their entitlements. And, when the purpose of the age pension is to be a safety net, we need to do more to assist seniors to navigate the complex process and support them.”
The study, conducted by National Seniors Australia (NSA) for Retirement Essentials, found that less than 40 per cent of seniors are satisfied with the current age pension application process and found that 88 per cent were dissatisfied with the forms and processes.
“I was surprised by how widespread this problem is. If the survey data is reflective of the whole community, then based on demographic trends over 153,000 Australian seniors each year are having a negative experience when applying for the pension,” Mr Rogan said.
The report, The Centrelink Experience – From ‘waiting, frustrated, hopeless’ to ‘helpful friendly, positive’, found most seniors ask for help when applying for the age pension. Those who were satisfied with their Centrelink experience put it down to the helpfulness of staff, describing the process as positive and friendly.
One age pensioner told the study, “They [Centrelink] were superb. Assisted me with forms online, were prompt with information, and processing my application plus the turn around to get my pension was quick. Notifications via the internet were good for me and worked well. I was very impressed and grateful for help at all levels.”
The dissatisfied 42.5 per cent used “hopeless”, “frustrating”, “poor” and “waiting” to describe the process.
“The experience is generally appalling. I feel as though the government doesn’t care and from my observation there are more and more people requiring Centrelink assistance and fewer and fewer people working to help them. It seems the ‘mission’ of Centrelink is ‘to prevent as many people as possible from accessing income support’,” an unhappy age pensioner told the study.
The study said these comments highlight the need for resilience or preparation to manoeuvre through the system with minimal friction and the constrained service delivery that features call centres, long wait times and insufficient officers.
“The system improvements underway at Centrelink do not appear to adequately address these frustrations. Firstly, they are primarily focused on digital enablement that replaces costly face-to-face services, and, secondly, age pension applicants do not appear to be prioritised for improvements in the short or medium term.”
Describing the process as “overly complex”, the report warned seniors could be simply giving up on accessing the benefits.
However, it said the challenges can be addressed with good systems designed with seniors in mind and increased attention to training and supervision.