Centrelink trial for video appointments could be expanded

Centrelink trial for video appointments could be expanded

National News
Services Australia staff member Giovacchino Brugnera at the virtual service centre, with Minister Stuart Robert taking notes. Picture: Supplied

Services Australia staff member Giovacchino Brugnera at the virtual service centre, with Minister Stuart Robert taking notes. Picture: Supplied

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The virtual service centre in Tuggeranong allows people to have their appointments with Centrelink from anywhere, including cars or cafes.

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The lockdowns and movement restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have meant more interactions have moved to the video world than previously thought possible.

Doctors, churches, a cup of tea with your grandmother: 2020 showed all of it could be done with a smartphone camera and internet connection.

Now Centrelink is hoping that video technology will also play a part in the future of its interactions with customers, with a virtual service centre in Tuggeranong the first step in offering some services without the need to queue up at a shopfront.

Like many businesses and public sector departments, Services Australia, the agency that runs Centrelink, had to completely overhaul its practices in the early days of the pandemic, both to be safe in the face of the virus, and keep up with the extraordinary demand on its services.

In March as lockdowns claimed jobs, Centrelink offices around the country were faced with queues of people out the door and around the block. While most Centrelink interactions had already moved online, one remained an in-person job - providing documents to prove identity.

That requirement was waived in the early days of the pandemic, but now Centrelink if offering the ability to prove identity with documentation through an online video appointment.

Since November, more than 2000 video appointments have been completed, something the agency says is the first step to incorporating the technology into more elements of service delivery.

At a visit to Tuggeranong's virtual service centre, Government Services Minister Stuart Robert said the video appointments were part of the government's promise to deliver services that were "simple, respectful, helpful and transparent".

"The pilot is seeing excellent results and it is an innovative approach to service delivery I would like to see expanded to ensure Australians can access the services they rely on, on their terms," he said.

"Services Australia staff are doing an extraordinary job through a difficult period and the Virtual Service Centre pilot is an example of how staff are meeting Australians where they are to get the help they need in a COVID world."

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Julie Hockey, the national manager for Face to Face Transformation, said the locations people had used the service from showed how useful it was.

"Customers have participated in video chats from a variety of locations while they're out and about, like cafés or in their car," she said.

"People with young children and those working full time have especially appreciated the convenience of video chat. They can access the service at a time and place that suits them, saving them a visit to us in person."

The story Centrelink trial for video appointments could be expanded first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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