Services Australia has been strengthening its capacity to help more individuals access welfare payments in response to “unprecedented demand”, according to government services minister Stuart Robert.
The Federal government’s portal for welfare services, myGov, experienced 150,000 concurrent users on Tuesday, up from just 6000 users last week. It was the result of many individuals losing their jobs due to business closures during the coronavirus pandemic.
Services Australia has been adding more capacity to myGov where possible, Robert said.While the site crashed due to the thousands of users attempting to login to the site earlier this week –which Robert briefly mistook as a cyber attack — he said the site was up and running throughout Wednesday.
“We’re upgrading myGov capacity by creating more load space in our ICT systems to accommodate the surge in demand. We are continuing to monitor the situation and adjust so we can allow as many people to use myGov without compromising overall systems stability,” he said.
Services Australia also facilitated 2.6 million logins to myGov on Wednesday, and would “continue to run the myGov service 24/7”, Robert noted.
“To put this in perspective, the previous busiest day for myGov was during the July 2019 taxtime period, where the peak was 1.8m logins in one single day,” he said.
Services Australia has been redeploying existing staff to call centres and to processing, and has been hiring more workers to meet the surge in demand.
“As at today Services Australia has redeployed more than 1,500 agency staff to call centres and to processing,” Robert said.
The 5000 extra staff for Services Australia, announced on Sunday, have begun their training and will start in their new roles from March 30.
In regards to the flooded Centrelink offices all around Australia, Robert said staff have been providing information to people in queues about the other ways to access support.
He said the Services Australia phone line hours have been extended to Monday to Friday from 8am to 8pm and on weekends from 9am to 5pm.
The agency has also launched an online ‘intent to claim’ function through myGov, allowing individuals to register for financial support online rather than over the phone or in person. More than 280,000 people lodged an ‘intent to claim’ by Wednesday afternoon.
Individuals will also no longer have to provide separation certificates to claim the JobSeeker payment, and claims will be backdated to when someone first tried to contact Centrelink or lodged an intent to claim.
Mutual obligation requirements for the JobSeeker payment — which force individuals to report their attendance at appointments or activities — have been lifted until March 31. Further extensions will be considered as required, Robert said.
He noted the public don’t need to visit a service centre to make a claim, and urged those who are already on a payment not to contact Services Australia “so we can focus on supporting people who are now out of work”.
“If you’re already on a payment that is eligible for the Economic Support Payment or the Coronavirus Supplement you do not need to do anything – you will get paid automatically,” he said.