Customers suffering distress and anxiety from debt notification letters sent out from Centrelink’s data-matching system are being referred to Lifeline by the federal welfare agency.
On Wednesday, independent MP Andrew Wilkie claimed that he had been in touch with people who were suicidal as a result of the allegedly false debt notices. He said that “the government has terrified countless people”.
Now social media records show that Centrelink’s official account has been advising multiple customers to get in touch with Lifeline in the midst of correspondence.
According to HuffPost Australia, Centrelink’s phone lines have been congested with enquiries, with some customers reporting making “hundreds of calls” before getting through and spending “hours” on hold.
Department of Human Services general manager Hank Jongen denied phone lines were experiencing higher-than-normal demand.
“There is no evidence of phone lines and service centres being adversely impacted – demand for our services is consistent with this time of year,” he said. “Currently, the Department’s average speed of answer on the telephone lines is under 16 minutes.”