Want to talk to Centrelink's Older Australians line? Expect to wait an average of 24 minutes and 18 seconds to speak to someone.
According to Services Australia this was the average time it took to get through as of December 31, 2022.
That means some callers will get through in less time but some will be on hold considerably longer.
The average time for a call to be answered across all of Services Australia's phone lines was 12 minutes 24 seconds.
In 2019 the government committed to employing extra private call centre workers to reduce phone lines wait times (300 for the older Australians line). Seniors had complained of waiting an hour or two, engaged signals, dropped-out calls and poorly trained staff resulting in customers having to repeat themselves multiple times as they were shuffled from person to person.
Readers had particularly expressed resentment at Centrelink office staff trying to push them into online services and mobile apps.
The Senior again posed a question to Services Australia regarding the time taken to answer calls, after several readers contacted us in November and December complaining about how hard it was to get through to the Older Australians line. One woman said it took almost seven hours to get help for a person she was caring for. Another reader said he was disconnected while on hold, and couldn't get back on (he believed Centelink was now ROBO-blocking his number), while others have said they'd "given up" and resigned themselves to a drive to a Centrelink office and a long wait in the queue, or just wouldn't bother.
Services Australia said wait times vary on a daily, weekly and monthly basis as staff manage day-to-day business and respond to seasonal peaks and unexpected demand influxes, including emergency events.
There had been an increased demand on the Older Australians line (132-300) in recent weeks due to a number of government-introduced changes, including the one-off $4000 Work Bonus top-up, and increased income limits for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card; and more people impacted by cost of living pressures were phoning about payments and services.
Services Australia general manager Hank Jongen said he was sorry to hear people were having trouble reaching someone and knew waiting on hold could be frustrating.
"I encourage anyone who needs to speak with us to stay on the line - people are getting through, and our staff are working hard to answer all calls," he said.
For those interested in doing more online, he said Services Australia now have digital coaches who can provide in-person support to increase confidence using online services.
I encourage anyone who needs to speak with us to stay on the line - people are getting through, and our staff are working hard to answer all calls.- Hank Jongen, Services Australia
Mr Jongen said Services Australia was investing in face-to-face support, such as aged care specialist officers which are available at some service centres across all states and territories.
Services Australia gave the following helpful links - unfortunately you'll also have to call all of them (8am - 5pm) or go to a Centrelink office to make an appointment.