The Department of Veterans’ Affairs has hitched its wagon to the trucks that take Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support services on the road for those who don’t live anywhere near a government office.
This year saw the mobile government shopfronts begin serving Defence Force veterans for the first time, under a pilot program, according to Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester.
“Being able to reach veterans and their families – particularly those in rural and regional communities — through the Mobile Service Centres is incredibly important to ensure they are receiving services and support through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs,” Chester said.
“The feedback from veterans and their families about our assistance has been overwhelmingly positive, and we’re excited to continue to offer this service.”
Two mobile service centres, named “Golden Wattle” and “Desert Rose”, served 10,200 customers from 410 communities last financial year and covered over 60,000 kilometres along the way, according to Minister for Government Services Stuart Robert.
“The team on board the mobile service centres pride themselves on the supportive, friendly, face-to-face service they provide to people in the bush,” Robert said.
During a 13-day diversion after this year’s floods in Queensland, the truck named Golden Wattle served around 500 people from seven flood-affected communities.
The two ministers provided the following examples of what these mobile government shopfronts do around the country.
New South Wales
“An elderly veteran and his wife attended the Mobile Service Centre to enquire about home care assistance, domestic assistance and home modifications, as the veteran’s medical conditions were affecting his mobility. The veteran was eligible for multiple services, and the Mobile Service Centre Manager contacted local organisations to arrange an at-home assessment for these services.
“The Manager discussed general health and wellbeing with the veteran — particularly mental health. The veteran said his mental health was okay; however, the drought was causing additional pressure. Following more discussion, the Manager established that the couple were local farmers with 60 head of cattle, and weren’t aware of the support available to them.
“The Manager was able to refer the couple to the Rural Financial Counselling Service, and a Farm Liaison Officer who conducted an assessment and was able to issue the couple with a voucher immediately. This Officer referred the couple to several local agencies and will continue to engage with the couple to ensure they are adequately supported.”
“During the North Queensland floods, the team on board Golden Wattle received a visit from two neighbours who had lost 90 per cent of their cattle from severe flooding. They’d been battling with the drought and trying to keep their stock alive, then the cattle were killed by flood water.
“The Mobile Service Centre team assisted the customers with claims for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment and referred them to a Farm Household Case Officer and Rural Financial Counsellor. The social worker on board the Mobile Service Centre also supported the neighbours with a wellbeing check, and connected them with local mental health services that were operating out of the recovery centre.”
“A social worker on board the Mobile Service Centre contacted a customer who was flagged as not having taken Maintenance action, which resulted in the customer receiving only the minimum rate of Family Tax Benefit. The social worker invited the customer to attend the Mobile Service Centre and discovered that the customer’s partner had recently passed away. The customer was unaware they were possibly entitled to more money.
“The social worker was able to update the customer’s file and issue an arrears payment, providing much needed financial relief for the young family. The social worker was also able to provide emotional support and help the customer with referrals to community organisations.”
“A customer attended the Mobile Service Centre to follow up on their claim for Newstart Allowance. The customer had subsequently been in hospital for surgery and had become homeless. The team on board checked that all relevant documentation had been lodged, and the claim was granted and arrears paid.
“During the conversation, the customer mentioned other service providers had also contacted her about the money she owed them. The Mobile Service Centre team was able to connect the customer to local financial counselling services that could assist her with her debt and other financial matters. The customer said she was overwhelmed with the high level of service and care that was provided by the team.”
“A Veteran couple attended the Mobile Service Centre with their daughter seeking assistance for the husband, who was suffering a terminal medical condition. They enquired about home care and domestic assistance, and the Mobile Service Centre Manager arranged an assessment with a local provider to be conducted for the couple in their home.
“The Manager also discussed My Aged Care and Palliative Care assistance for the couple, and completed an Assisted Customer Claim for carer allowance for the couple’s daughter, as she was providing most of the care.
“The daughter advised she’d been trying to access assistance on behalf of her father for a while but was struggling because she wasn’t a nominee. The Mobile Service Centre Manager was able to provide the family with Authority to Act forms, and sent all relevant documentation to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“An older Australian was caring for his wife who was very unwell, requiring 24 hour care. He came on board to lodge a medical report for a carer allowance claim he had completed online. The couple were struggling financially due to ongoing medical costs, and were considering selling their home to support themselves. Staff on board escalated the carer allowance claim for it to be assessed immediately.
“During the interaction staff noticed the customer wasn’t getting the full rate of his age pension. They updated the customer details, which increased the customer’s fortnightly pension rate. By the end of the day, the customer had also been granted carer allowance, and received a back payment.”