Post by Banjo on Apr 27, 2018 17:04:35 GMT 7
Aged care helpline: 10,000 calls go unanswered in three months
The latest problem to beset the government’s troubled My Aged Care system branded ‘deeply concerning’ by Labor
More than 10,000 calls to the government’s aged care support line have gone unanswered in three months.
The calls were made to the My Aged Care phone line, which helps older Australians seeking government-funded residential or community-based aged care.
The support line is used as a starting point for accessing services, and gives older Australians information on the type of services available, their eligibility, nearby options, costs, advocacy and complaints procedures.
Between December 2017 and February this year, 10,972 calls to the line went unanswered – about 4% of the 292,046 calls in total, according to responses to a question on notice in Senate estimates.
The shadow ageing minister, Julie Collins, said the number of unanswered calls was “deeply concerning”.
“Older Australians looking for care at home or in residential facilities deserve better,” Collins said. “They deserve certainty and security, not unanswered calls.”
The minister for ageing, Ken Wyatt, rubbished Labor’s criticisms, saying the average call wait time was less than 30 seconds, evidence it was working well.
“The Turnbull government has achieved this answering rate by increasing the call centre staff numbers to 400 last year, resulting in a highly trained, Australian-based team that specialises in helping older Australians and their families,” he said
“In September, the government announced a $20m investment to further streamline My Aged Care’s information and access systems.”
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The My Aged Care system has experienced problems since its launch in the 2012-13 budget, at a cost of about $198.2m. The system includes phone lines and a website. The website was the subject of much criticism for its clunkiness and confusing design, although it has since been revamped.
There were 464,261 unique visits to the website between December and February.
The federal government has spent millions trying to improve and streamline the My Aged Care system. About $3.1m was spent on the IT platform in 2016-17, and another $20m was used to streamline the service in September last year.
Collins said the investments showed the system was failing.
“The succession of inadequate investments the Turnbull government has had to make to try and fix My Aged Care clearly demonstrates the system is failing older Australians,” she said.
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“With 105,000 older Australians waiting for care at home and growing concerns about the sustainability of residential aged care funding, it is clear the Turnbull government is failing the task of addressing an emerging aged care crisis.”
The problems mirror those experienced at Centrelink’s call centre. Last financial year, Centrelink customers were met with 55m busy signals. That was a significant increase from the 29m the year prior.
Wait times have also been a constant source of frustration for Centrelink customers.
The government has brought in Serco, the public service outsourcing company, to provide 250 staff to help the call centre.
This week, it announced it would add 1,000 extra staff from the private sector to boost the call centre’s capacity.