Desperate seniors in pension application limbo

COMPLETE OVERHAUL NEEDED: National Seniors believes older Australians are facing "unnecessary hurdles" when applying for their age pension entitlements.

COMPLETE OVERHAUL NEEDED: National Seniors believes older Australians are facing "unnecessary hurdles" when applying for their age pension entitlements.

“TOO hard, too complicated and too long” is how a leading seniors’ advocacy group has described applying for the age pension.

The escalating failure of the application process has prompted National Seniors to call for a complete overhaul of the system.

Meanwhile desperate retirees have continued to contact The Senior following last month’s article on long approval wait times.

Left in application limbo by Centrelink, they are living on savings, superannuation or borrowing from family. 

They are angry they are missing out on pensioner concessions and frustrated at being stonewalled when they ask for an update from Centrelink.

National Seniors interim chief executive John McCallum said it was essential the issues were addressed, given there were more than 700 applications for the age pension every working day.

Joint research by National Seniors and digital financial planning company Retirement Essentials shows most applicants are dissatisfied with the age pension application process. 

The research analysed the views of 530 National Seniors members who had applied for the age pension since 2016. It showed less than four in 10 – or 38.5 per cent – were satisfied with the process, 42.4 per cent were dissatisfied and 19 per cent ambivalent.

Respondents said their time and needs were not valued or recognised by Centrelink staff, describing the application process as “generally appalling”, and staff “unhelpful, disinterested and reluctant to answer questions”.

The report identified clear areas for improvement in Centrelink training, internal processes and management.

“Our study provides clear evidence that senior Australians face unnecessary hurdles to access the age pension entitlements they rely on for their essential living expenses,” Professor McCallum said.

“The complexity of the Centrelink processes, combined with insufficient call centre operators, long wait times and insufficient Financial Information Service officers, is frustrating.”

Centrelink call centre wait times increased last year, with almost 500,000 abandoned calls to the seniors’ help line.

Professor McCallum said the federal government’s announcement of 1000 extra operators would help ease the burden on busy phone lines. But other issues, such as the overly complex application process, needed to be addressed.

A Department of Human Services spokesperson said age pension claims are processed by specialist teams not based in service centres.

  •  www.humanservices.gov.au 132-300.
This story Appalling: retirees blast claims process first appeared on The Senior.

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