Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Making it easier to get help and to give it

Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Vanstone, announced today an initiative aimed at simplifying the existing administrative requirements and arrangements for new customers when they first access pensions, allowances and ancillary benefits administered by the Department of Family and Community Services through Centrelink.

“I want to ensure that the system works properly and does not impose unnecessary burdens on new customers,” Senator Vanstone said.

“Unnecessarily complex administration can get in the way of good service to Centrelink customers.

“Some payments have literally hundreds of procedures to establish eligibility.

“We need to check whether they are all still warranted. It is a big task, but the objective is to improve customers’ service and Centrelink efficiency.”

“The Government’s aim is to make it easier for customers to get help from Centrelink.”

To achieve this, the Minister announced the establishment of a Rules Simplification Taskforce to review Centrelink’s processing requirements and arrangements.

The Taskforce will report to the Minister for Family and Community Services on the first stage of the exercise examining age pension and Newstart Allowance (the two payments with the largest number of recipients and/or claims) by the end of August 2001.

“Every year 2.1 million people, as new customers, come to Centrelink seeking help.

“Of course we need to have checks to ensure the system protects the public purse. But at the same time we don’t want to make the exercise any more time consuming and complex than it needs to be.

“Without ignoring the laws and safeguards, we have to keep the administration simple.

Terms of Reference:

The review will examine the existing procedural requirements and make recommendations on simplifying existing administrative guidelines and arrangements, having regard to:

  1. reducing complexity for new customers, employers and Commonwealth agencies;
  2. Centrelink’s responsibility to the Department of Family & Community Services under the Business Partnership Agreement;
  3. the legal and legislative basis of the existing requirements and procedures;
  4. the supporting administrative systems, including IT;
  5. an ongoing capacity to fine tune and update procedural arrangements; and
  6. the effectiveness and necessity of existing requirements and processes to meet stated objectives.

The Minister stressed that the Taskforce will not address the rate of existing pensions and benefits, nor the key elements of the present eligibility requirements. Procedures relating to concession cards have only recently been reviewed.

Senator Vanstone said the Taskforce would consult key stakeholder groups.

The Taskforce will comprise specialist staff from the Department of Family and Community Services, Centrelink, other Commonwealth agencies as required and external consultants with expertise in designing efficient and sound administrative processes.