People are reporting having to make hundreds of calls to Centrelink before the phone line even connects, and spending hours on hold once their call actually goes through, as the nation's welfare debt recovery saga continues.
Thousands of Australians across the country have recently received correspondencefrom Centrelink claiming there is a discrepancy in their records, and asking for updates and clarification. In some cases, the welfare agency has asked for pay records from many years ago; in others, the person has received a debt notice for many thousands of dollars.
Understandably, people are trying to contact Centrelink to ask questions, provide more information or dispute the debt -- but some say they have made hundreds of calls to various Centrelink phone lines only to spend hours on hold.
As a test, the Huffington Post Australia called 132 490 -- which has received many complaints about long wait times -- eleven times over the course of five hours on Wednesday, but the lines were busy and the call went dead each and every time.
We also called the number for the customer compliance branch, where people are being directed to confirm their employment income, and were connected to an operator quickly.
In a statement, Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen told HuffPost Australia that Centrelink's phone service was not experiencing longer than usual wait times.
"There is no evidence of phone lines and service centres being adversely impacted – demand for our services is consistent with this time of year," Jongen said.