Friday, April 4, 2014

Budget Pressures Impact Public Service Provision

With the veil of secrecy surrounding the Abbott Government’s Commission of Audit report Australians have every right be concerned about what is in store in May’s Federal Budget, particularly when it comes to the provision of public services.
Successive budget cuts have made it harder for the federal public sector to continue to provide high quality public services. The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) estimates that 3,600 public sector jobs have been cut since the Coalition Government came to office in September.

A substantial number of the job losses came from service delivery agencies such as the Department of Human Services (DHS). This has had direct implications for the Australian community with users of DHS services seeing:

·         Excessive waiting times in Centrelink queues;

·         Long wait times in phone queues;

·         Increased double-handling of queues and in call queues;

·         Processing back logs in a range of areas.

As the CPSU has pointed out in their submission to the 2014 Budget, “the frustrations and pressures created by these delays is contributing to increasing incidences of client aggression towards DHS staff. This growing problem is extremely distressing and often dangerous both for staff members and for other community members at DHS premises during these incidents”.

It is completely unsatisfactory that wait times are regularly over 40 minutes for Call Centre enquiries, and queues in metropolitan and suburban offices have customers waiting for more than two hours to talk to staff. Medicare staffing has been reduced to the extent that customer queues are regularly extending outside the doors into the street.

We need a Government that is about finding practical solutions rather than embracing an ideologically driven “slash and burn” approach. Further cuts will only exacerbate problems which pensioners, retirees and many young people have in accessing public services.

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