The Department of Human Services’ plans to outsource its call centre management to Telstra are under scrutiny. A key union has flagged concerns around job losses, privacy and the quality of service.
The Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) is continuing to petition the Australian government and has called for a closer scrutiny of the proposal.
The union’s deputy national secretary, Lisa Newman, earlier questioned the validity of the plan, raising questions around the impact on front-line services and jobs.
Among the portfolios, the Department of Human Services administers Medicare and Centrelink services. It also runs the Child Support Agency and administers some Veterans Affairs and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme payments.
No decision yet
In an official statement to IDG Government, Hank Jongen, general manager, Department of Human Services, said that no decision has been made on the proposal.
The department is “still considering before making a final decision,” he said. The proposal, if implemented, would require Telstra to staff up to 200 seats in two DHS “smart centres” for up to 12 months. These staff would be in addition to the department’s existing workforce and not lead to job losses, or work being sent offshore.
If implemented, these additional jobs would focus on general, high-volume transactions. These include requests for replacement concession and Medicare cards, Jongen said.
This additional allocation frees up the department’s skilled staff to focus on the more complex customer enquiries and reduce wait times.
“We take the privacy of individuals and the security of information very seriously and if the arrangement was to proceed, it would adhere to the department’s well established standards and privacy protocols,” Jongen said.
Earlier, the CPSU’s Newman flagged concerns around access to sensitive personal information involving millions of Australians. She noted that the union remains worried about the quality of services being delivered to communities.
There is the added risk of accessing private customer records, while compromising quality control and financial accountability. This outsourcing plan also negates against the department's 'first point of contact' service delivery mode, noted Newman.
At present, Centrelink and Medicare offer national phone numbers that clients can call with questions. Up to 7,000 staff is assigned to field queries spanning 28 nationwide call centres. Many of these are based in regional centres.
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