Bridie O’Shea sheds some light on why you may have been waiting months to get your Student Payment claims approved by Centrelink and what you can do about it.
Applied for Austudy or Youth Allowance this year and haven’t received any word on whether your application has been approved?
Unfortunately you, and tens of thousands other young people, are in the same boat. According to reporter Noel Towell from The Canberra Times around 27,500 Student Payment claims are currently backlogged in the system, after peaking at 90,000 in March, several weeks into the first semester of 2016 for university and TAFE students.
It appears that the process that usually takes up to four weeks was taking up to four months to process student claims, causing great delays and distress.
The Minister for Human Services, Alan Trudge, told Triple J’s Hack that the number of students claiming payments this year is in part the reason for the backlog.
“We’ve had over 250,000 claims for payments, just this calendar year alone, which is an unprecedented number of claims and there has been backlog and we’re working through them very rapidly”, Trudge told Hack.
However, Towell claims that departmental sources say these delays have been written down to the “Customer First” software glitch as the forecasts on the demand of Student Payments were accurate.
A Centrelink worker, Dave (who spoke to Hack under a false name), has been with the Department of Human Services for five years and reiterated that the software that was meant to speed up processing didn’t work. And sorting through the backlog has also been hampered by the shortage of public servants to process the claims.
In order to combat this crisis Centrelink employed lightly trained casuals (intermittent and irregular employees or IIEs) who, Towell reports, “auto-rejected” as many as 30,000 applications without checking the supporting documents.
When the department’s general manager Hank Jongen was approached about the “Customer First” system and the IIE’s he didn’t comment. However, he made it clear that the department would be working through the claims as soon as possible with trained staff considering the merit of each case against the criteria.
UON Student Support Advisor for Health and Welfare at Callaghan Campus, Katrina Hamall, said that students with legitimate financial hardship can contact UON Student Services for advice and/or in special cases limited, short-term emergency loans for those who can demonstrate genuine need via documentation.
“If it’s evident that someone is in dire straights we can sometimes help with things like food vouchers, or other things like that to help get them through”, Katrina said.
However, all these claims are processed by one Student Loans and Welfare Officer who only works two days a week, so claims won’t be approved instantaneously.
Coincidentally, Centrelink representatives will be visiting Ourimbah on the 18th of May and Callghan campus on the 19th of May. At Callaghan they are providing a ‘Stretching Your Dollar’ workshop at The Glasshouse inside Bar on the Hill at 10am, 12pm, and 2pm.
The representatives are also offering individual consultations between 10:30am-2:30pm at BoTH for students who wish to talk about their specific situation. Just remember to bring along your CRN (Customer Reference Number).
There still may be some light at the end of the tunnel for some students. Minister Trudge told Hack that he is expecting to be on top of the backlog in two weeks.
That was on the 26th of April.
After six days they’ve reduced the claims by approximately 4,500. Whether or not the backlog will be cleared by the 10th of May is yet to be seen. However, Towell says insiders have urged that if you’re one of the students who have had their claims rejected you “should appeal the decision as soon as possible”.
If you’re dealing with financial difficulty you can make an appointment to see a Student Support Advisor through Student Support on 4921 5801.