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New Centrelink staff a vital correction to address a system that's harming Australia’s mental health

Australians for Mental Health welcomes today’s announcement of a funding boost that will see 3,000 new staff added to Centrelink’s struggling call centers. This much-needed step comes as ballooning call waiting times have caused trauma to the mental health of vulnerable Australians. 

Services Australia, the agency providing the Centrelink program, last week revealed wait times have increased after cuts to staffing, with only 23 per cent of calls made to the agency in July and August being answered.  

“This announcement of 3,000 new staff as part of a $228m funding boost is a sorely needed addition to a struggling system that is causing real harm to people’s mental health,” Australians for Mental Health Executive Director, Chris Gambian, said.  

“The Robodebt scheme was used to gut contact channels at Services Australia, leaving some of the country’s most vulnerable people languishing on waiting lists or unable lodge claim payments.” 

“This failure is a sober reminder that Governments must consider the consequences of their decisions on the mental health and wellbeing of people. Services Australia should be oriented towards supporting people who experience disadvantage, not punishing them or restricting their access to services”. 

“The experience of poverty takes a huge toll on people’s mental health, and this can be greatly exacerbated by long wait times and other barriers to services and support.” 

“This funding must be ongoing so that these roles are a permanent increase to the current Services Australia workforce.” 

Services Australia lost 3,000 staff under the previous government. Last week Centrelink officials told a Senate estimates hearing it had issued 2.8m busy messages to callers in only two months this year and that 22 per cent of customers across the 2022-2023 financial year had received a “congestion message”. 

About Australians for Mental Health: 

Australians for Mental Health was founded in 2014 to campaign for fundamental change in the way the country thinks and acts about mental health. Our mission is to ensure that Australia starts putting mental health at the heart of our national life. 

Media contact: Simon Black at [email protected], or on 0420 488 219. 

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