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The Department of Human Services has advised the CPSU that approximately 2,000 permanent jobs will be created in order to improve services for customers and reduce pressure on staff.

The agency covering Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support said it expects the majority of new permanent positions will be filled by current casual staff, as the department seeks to reduce its use of non-going workers.

The department expects recruitment for the permanent jobs will be concluded in August, with the roles mostly to cover call centre and processing work in offices around the country.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “This is an enormously significant announcement that will give a much-needed boost to service standards for Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support customers whilst easing the intense pressure faced by DHS staff. We’re working closely with DHS to ensure these jobs are created quickly and fairly.

“This will provide around 2,000 people in communities around the country with quality, permanent employment and offer some desperately needed support to their colleagues struggling under impossible workloads and also dealing with increased customer agitation and aggression as a result.

“People employed casually by DHS already make a valuable contribution, but giving them permanent jobs will mean they receive the comprehensive training that is required to fully help customers through sensitive issues and often complex processes.”

“The department deserves congratulations for taking this first step to turn around what has been an unacceptable slide in service standards, as we’ve seen with the 42 million calls blocked with a busy signal just in the first 10 months of this financial year and with the tens of thousands of people unfairly caught up in robo-debt.”

The decision follows months of controversy over the robo-debt debacle and lack of service availability at Centrelink, culminating in Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support staff stepping up strikes in April.

“DHS has been described as an agency in crisis,” Ms Flood said. “These jobs will help repair that damage, while the department also needs to agree a fair and reasonable outcome to resolve enterprise bargaining and implement the key recommendations of last week's inquiry report into robo-debt.”

Meanwhile in NSW, 400 may be cut

The Public Service Association believes the NSW Government will slash more than 400 jobs in disability services and child protection.

The cuts will be of frontline jobs in areas such as disability services, child protection and housing, as part of the 2017-2018 budget.

Under the Family and Community Services (FACS) Cluster Operating Model, the NSW Government has outlined plans to shed at least 429 jobs across Sydney and regional NSW.

Even more jobs are expected to go as further cuts are announced to corporate and state-wide services in the coming weeks.

The PSA says many of these jobs are in regional and remote NSW where service provision is already stretched and comparable employment isn’t available.

 

 
                    [post_title] => Centrelink, Medicare, Child Support to get 2,000 permanent jobs, NSW to lose 400
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                    [post_content] => 

 

Last weekend’s myGov makeover has improved the troubled website but has the federal government missed an opportunity to cheer up myGov users after all the past frustrations they have endured?

In a joint announcement last week, Digital Transformation Minister Angus Taylor and Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, said the website overhaul made myGov easier to navigate, less information dense and more responsive when accessed on smartphones and tablets.

The government claimed that it was now easier for users to sign in and to unlock their own accounts when they had been suspended, reducing incorrect logins by 37 per cent.

The changes were ostensibly in response to the rapid expansion of the numbers of people using myGov, around ten million, while log-ins doubled over the last two years to 242,000 per day.

The Digital Transformation Agency (DTA) said it had conducted ‘hundreds of hours of research’ into the experiences of users and responded to their complaints, including that myGov used difficult language, complex instructions and frequently left them locked out of their accounts.

Joe Russell, Director of User Engagement at Victorian company Buzinga, which specialises in web and mobile app development, acknowledged the changes were positive but said that the government had missed the chance to speed up and really improve the experience for users.

“It is basically functional: finally. Before it was hard to do any of the core things it was meant to do,” Mr Russell said. “It’s easier to use, yes, but there are still major issues. I wouldn’t call it a huge leap.

“Reducing incorrect logins by 37 per cent. I wouldn’t have thought that was something to brag about. Being able to log in is an assumption you make when you go into any site.”

While the DTA website talks about ‘reimagining’ the user experience and putting users’ needs first, Mr Russell said this had not been done to any great extent.

He said simple fixes that could have streamlined things for users had been ignored, such as not having to enter the same data twice and the cursor automatically moving to the next field to enter data.

Another deficiency was the lack of loading indicators after users submitted a form, so they were unsure of whether the form was loading or not. This often led to users hitting the back button and resetting and clearing fields they had already completed.

Mr Russell questioned whether the project had carried out sufficient usability testing. This is where an ‘average’ user is given tasks to complete while they are timed and any difficulties noted and comments taken on board to measure their experience and suggest improvements.

“It does what it claims to do. It’s an improvement, I will give them that” but he said the DTA had missed the chance to speed up user interaction with myGov and make data entry easier and faster.

“Usability testing could have solved these small things. This is basic best practice,” he said. “All these little annoyances can be resolved and hopefully will be next time.”

The DTA has said the website changes were a result of extensive research conducted in more than 20 metropolitan, regional and rural locations. The agency’s website says this research included usability testing, as well as visits to shopfront sites, support staff interviews and testing with users of assistive technology.

A DTA spokesperson said that any changes needed to be carefully considered and tested with users.

"A sensible approach, and one that's consistent with the Digital Service Standard, is to make iterative improvements based on user research," said the spokesperson. "The latest release builds on changes made last year. User research is continuing and will guide future improvements."

But just as myGov’s usability had not come on in leaps and bounds, Mr Russell said the look and feel of the website had changed slightly but was not ground breaking, “It’s basically black text on a white background. It’s as vanilla as you can get”, he said.

Nor was replacing service icons with text a positive change for people who were visually impaired, elderly or dyslexic and he disagreed with the assertion that member services logos and the Australian Government crest were more prominent.

MyGov was launched in 2013 to provide a single access point for ten different agencies providing services including Medicare, tax, Centrelink, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and My Health Record.

The rollout which occurred last weekend, was a joint project between the Department of Human Services, the Digital Transformation Agency and the Australian Tax Office.

It seems that the question posed on the DTA website, ‘what could good look like’ has morphed into ‘what could barely adequate look like’?

Further comment from DTA and DHS to follow. 
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The federal government’s troubled myGov website has had a digital makeover to make it more intuitive to navigate, nicer to look at and easier to access using mobile phones or tablets.

The overhaul was made more pressing by the large jump in traffic to the government services portal over the last two years. The federal government said that myGov had 10 million users and dealt with more than 242,000 logins every day: twice the number of logins from just two years’ ago.

It is a pivotal website that millions of Australian must interact with daily, dealing as it does with a huge range of services. MyGov was launched in 2013 to provide a single access point for ten different agencies providing services including Medicare, tax, Centrelink, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and My Health Record.

The government has recognised that any failure of myGov or rising customer frustration with the system can be a very public and vocal affair.

Assistant Minister for Cities and Digital Transformation Angus Taylor said in March this year:

“The public will ultimately judge us when they go on to the myGov website, when they pay their tax or ask for a refund, when they come through immigration, when they are engaging with the industry portfolio as a small business, they will judge us on how that goes.

“They’ll accept that there are speed humps along the way. But they will be unforgiving if that experience doesn’t continually improve.”

The changes were in response to ‘hundreds of hours of user research’ which revealed common complaints about the website, including the difficult language used, confusing instructions and dumping large swathes of information on users.  

People also complained about how often they were locked out of their accounts and the difficulty in getting these unlocked.

The joint statement by Mr Taylor and Human Services Minister Alan Tudge about the myGov revamp said this problem had been addressed to make signing in easier and to allow users to unlock their own accounts once they had been suspended. 

They claimed the changes had resulted in incorrect logins being reduced by 37 per cent.

Mr Taylor said: “We listened and we got it. The new look myGov also demonstrates how the DTA can partner with other agencies and departments to transfer skills and transform delivery.”

The sign-in process had already been tinkered with over the past year to show users passwords as they typed them (to cut down on login failures and account suspensions) and allowing people to use email or mobile numbers instead of just alphanumeric usernames.

Mr Tudge said the government had incorporated user feedback and collaborated with other departments to fast-tracked changes.

“Our investment in myGov is transforming the way people do business with government - making life easier for 10 million Australians,” Mr Tudge said.

“In response to user feedback, we’ve also made it easier for users to find and access the services they need.”

The rollout, which occurred over the weekend, was a joint project between the Department of Human Services and the Digital Transformation Agency and the Australian Tax Office.

The government said the Discovery and Alpha phases were completed by the Digital Transformation Agency while the prototype stage and the beta product were a partnership between the ATO and DHS.
                    [post_title] => MyGov: “we listened and we got it” says minister after digital makeover
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Public servants and local councils are hoping Treasurer Scott Morrison's 'good news' Budget really is.
Pic: YouTube.

 

 

Housing affordability, a staged unfreezing of the Medicare rebate, infrastructure spending and Gonski 2.0 are all widely tipped to feature prominently in Treasurer Scott Morrison’s “good news” Budget tomorrow.

Other likely announcements include a one-pay payment for pensioners to offset electricity price increases, funding for veterans’ mental health programs and dumping billions of dollars worth of education and health ‘zombie’ cuts.

Meanwhile, Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen has already called Mr Morrison's Budget a “pale imitation of Labor policy” and said it is merely an attempt to save Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership by “trying to close down issues”, while warning Catholic schools will stage a rebellion against their recalculated, lower funding.

“It is designed to save Malcolm Turnbull's leadership, desperate to get a positive Newspoll,” Mr Bowen told Barrie Cassidy on Insiders yesterday.

“These half measures: one step forward, two step back, coming down the road towards Labor policy is [not] going to fool anybody. Of course, the fact Labor's led the policy agenda on health, education and housing affordability means the government is playing catch-up.

“Whenever someone is playing catch-up with you, that’s better than not catching up with you, but they are still a long way behind on these policies.”

But aside from the politics, what impact will the Budget have on local government and where will the inevitable spending cuts to fund the goodies come from?


Local government wish list

The biggest, most pressing issue for local government is the fervent hope that the federal government will finally end the freeze on the indexation of Financial Assistance Grants  (FAGs) to councils, a decision which Joe Hockey deferred for another three years in his horror 2014 Budget.

Regional and rural councils have borne the brunt of this measure, since they are much more dependent on FAGs for their general funding than metro areas due to their weaker rates’ base.

In April, the peak body for the nation’s local councils, the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), mounted a social media campaign pressing the government to end the FAGs freeze, while pressing the government to increase the quantum of FAGs in proportion to Commonwealth tax revenue. In 1996 FAGs were equal to about 1 per cent of Commonwealth tax revenue; by 2013-14 FAGs amounted to around 0.67 per cent of total.

A growing infrastructure maintenance backlog, particularly in NSW, has seen ALGA request that the Roads to Recovery program should be permanently doubled, the Bridges Renewal program made permanent and Fairer Roads Funding restored for South Australia, at $17.5 million per annum.

The Association’s federal Budget submission also asked for $300 million a year over the next four years to fund community infrastructure which it said would stimulate long-term growth and build community resilience.

Disaster funding and support to address climate change is also a priority for those councils in flood prone areas. ALGA has asked for a disaster mitigation program to be established funded at $200 million per year and an investment of $100 million over four years to support councils to manage their own climate risks.

The Association also asked that the government to review municipal funding for services around indigenous housing, health, jobs and education.

ALGA President David O’Loughlin said it was “an ideal time to invest in roads and bridges, community infrastructure and guarding against the world impacts of climate change” as well as the time “to start the discussion about the reality of the current funding constraints experienced by councils”.

“ALGA understands the fiscal challenges facing the Commonwealth, however, expenditure on priorities does not wait for a convenient moment,” Mr O’Loughlin said.

“Indeed, ALGA would argue that in times of fiscal constraint governments should focus on community priorities and investment in productive infrastructure through the most efficient processes to deliver programs.”

Specific items expected in the Budget include a $2.3 billion state-federal package for Western Australia to pay for freeways, regional roads and the Metronet rail project; motorway upgrades for South East Queensland and progress on the Melbourne to Brisbane Inland Rail project, alongside $6 billion for a second Sydney airport at Badgerys Creek.

There is also likely to be an announcement of a further roll-out of City Deals, which focus on new infrastructure to help regional areas around urban centres.

It will be fascinating to discover is there is any mention of the National Party-led push to decentralise government jobs, typified by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicine Authority’s move from Canberra to  Armidale, in tomorrow's Budget.


The cuts 

One cut that has already been foreshadowed is reduced Commonwealth funding for universities, tighter rules around HECS repayments and a 2.5 per cent efficiency dividend that universities must meet. There may also be a series of smaller health programs that may be slashed or abandoned.

Meanwhile, the Community and Public Sector Union is stealing itself for yet another round of public service job cuts, predicting that a further 4500 jobs could be slashed “if the government maintains its hard-line cuts” and adds to the 18,000 scalps it has already claimed.

Instead the union is asking the government to target its money saving efforts at consultants and contractors and company tax avoidance and restore ATO jobs to prosecute this drive.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said the relative silence before the Budget had been “strange and a tad unsettling” for government workers.

“Treasurer Scott Morrison and the government in general have said much less about the national accounts than they normally would,” Ms Flood said.

“That silence hasn't exactly been reassuring for the public servants who keep the wheels of government turning. This government has repeatedly used them as a political football while also making harsh and short-sighted cuts.

“Let's hope the government puts ordinary Australians first with this budget, rather than shooting itself in the foot with another round of counter-productive public sector cuts.”

We’ll have to wait and see.
                    [post_title] => Budget 2017: Implications for local councils
                    [post_excerpt] => 
Union fears further public sector job cuts.

 
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Can Health exorcise the ghosts of failed past government IT projects?

 

 

There is a graveyard bigger than Rookwood Cemetery filled with the cadavers of failed government IT projects and haunted by the ghosts of scope creep, budget blowouts, frustrating delays and second rate outcomes.

It is a fate the Department of Health (DOH) will be dearly hoping it can avoid as it pushes ahead to completely reimagine its 30-year-old IT payments system, a system which underpins Medicare, aged care and veterans’ payments and the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

The project is still in its early stages. The Request for Information (RFI) went out in March this year as the government gathers as many ideas as it can from tech companies of varying sizes to design, deliver and integrate its digital payments platform, a project that will have multiple phases over the next five years, while keeping its procurement options open.

Vendors are likely to be salivating at the chance to score a lucrative, long-running contract which has about the highest public profile there is for a federal government IT project, perhaps surpassed only by the Department of Human Services’ $1 billion, seven-year Welfare Payments Infrastructure Transformation (WPIT), due for completion by 2022.

But it will not be easy money. It is not a straight forward task to disentangle the current system, which has over 200 applications and 90 databases and supports more than 600 million payments worth approximately $50 billion every year.

The Health Department cannot afford to slip up because if it does it will do so very publicly. The multi-million dollar transformation is an endeavour that will affect around 99 per cent of Australians who use the digital payments platform in one way or another.

CEO of business management company Holocentric, Bruce Nixon, who has worked with government clients such as the ATO, NSW Transport Management Centre, Sydney Water and IP Australia, says now is the right time to do it, before the labyrinthine system gets even more complicated.

“It’s pretty exciting and it is long overdue. It’s a good time to be doing it with new technology available,” Mr Nixon says.

“It is very difficult to integrate everything into the application so there are more and more layers on top and they become more and more complex and unwieldy.

“There does come a time where it makes sense to overhaul the system and replace it with something more modern that allows changes.”

Time is also limited so DOH has little choice but to act. Gary Sterrenberg, CIO of the Department of Human Services, which manages health payments for DOH, has said in the past that the current system has only about three years left before it is totally cactus.

There is no doubt that DOH needs to get on with it but it needs to do it well. 

Critical to the project’s success, says Mr Nixon, is building expertise and loyalty in-house, rather than shifting the burden and responsibility onto systems integrators, although he says external contractors will be needed and they will bring in fresh ideas.

“You should bet on your own people. Open their knowledge. Bring them into the project as early as possible and keep them involved all the way through,” he says.

“Be upfront about how it’s going to work in the future, the ramifications. It de-risks the project.”

Doing this helps prevent cost overruns and scope creep, as well as skilling up staff, and ensures that the people who know and understand the processes the system is built for are more involved in the project.

It makes it more likely that the system can incorporate any necessary changes to payments further down the track too.

“There are always going to be policy changes and political influences. Transformation is ongoing and it is hard to change if you don’t have in-house skills and knowledge,” Mr Nixon says.

It is the people at the coalface processing payments - not systems integrators - who have this knowledge.

“You need to leverage these skills and engage these staff in the process, rather than relying on systems integrators,” he adds.

Integrating the technical into the operational demands a thorough knowledge of current processes and assessing desirable outcomes, along with building in the flexibility to adjust systems to reflect future changes.

It requires drilling down and looking at how payments are made, defining the tasks workers must do, the rules and obligations they are working under, and thinking about how these integrate into the IT system.

Mr Nixon says it is important to examine what can be done better and the expectations Australians have of the system, for example, of being able to make mobile payments.

“The Department should make sure it takes control of the whole transformation initiative. This is a very complex system that has been around for a long time with a huge amount of transactions that are very important to get right.

“You need to start change management from the early days, not at the end, identify current processes, system capabilities and your future vision."

He suggests building a model to simulate the processes and how things will work, “sort of like a business GPS”.

Mr Nixon says there are lessons to be learned from other IT disasters, whether from Australia or overseas, cautionary tales worth heeding by governments before they blow billions and incur the wrath of ordinary Australians when the systems they rely upon seize up.

“It’s worth being wary of past failures,” he says.

Probably one of the most spectacular domestic IT failures occurred when Queensland Health set out to replace its ailing payroll system in 2006. When the system eventually went live in 2010 thousands of workers were underpaid, overpaid or not paid at all and Queensland taxpayers were left with a $1.2 billion bill for a project that was initially supposed to be a $6 million contract.

The meltdown was primarily due to the organisation’s failure to clearly set out its business requirements or to spell out how it should be delivered and what outcomes were expected. Unrealistic deadlines exacerbated the sloppy planning.

All this set the scene for massive scope creep and proved to be a headache for contractor IBM, which had to deal with multiple requests for changes.

Another epic fail was the Victorian MyKi public transport smartcard, where costs ballooned to $1.5 billion and dragged on an extra seven years, taking nine years instead of two. The ensuing storm of complaints from the public over charges and refunds only amplified the damage done.

The then Victorian Labor government underestimated the project’s complexity and failed to monitor the contract properly.

DOH will be fervently praying that it does not enter the annals of similarly disastrous IT projects and instead gets it right. 
                    [post_title] => Health confronts ghosts of failed govt IT projects in Medicare payments rebuild
                    [post_excerpt] => Engage staff early, integrate process with systems. 
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                    [post_content] => 

 

Exasperated staff at Human Services will intensify strikes at Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support from Thursday next week in an attempt to break the three-year deadlock with the federal government over pay and conditions and sign a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA).

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) members begin two weeks of industrial action from Thursday April 13 until April 26 with longer strikes between 7am and 8.30pm, except for April 13. These are rolling strikes, which means strikers can chose to strike for as little as half an hour or for their entire shift.

Recent strikes have involved shorter periods of time, from 1.30pm to 8.30pm or 12.30pm to 8.30pm.

Human Services and the CPSU appear to be no closer to a resolution and a new agreement than they were last year, despite the Fair Work Commission overseeing the discussions.

DHS staff have already voted down agreements three times: by 83 per cent in September 2015; 80 per cent in February 2016 and 74 per cent in November 2016.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said a fortnight of strikes in Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support showed how frustrated workers were.

“We’re talking about thousands of people with bills to pay, many of them part-time working mums on around $40,000 a year,” Ms Flood said. “DHS workers really aren’t asking for much. All they want to do is hold on to rights and conditions that have been in place for many years and allow them to balance their working and family lives.

She said ‘slow but steady’ progress made by other Commonwealth agencies but talks with DHS had achieved little.

“Our team has worked tirelessly trying to negotiate through this mess with DHS management. Those talks are ongoing and are currently being overseen by the Fair Work Commission, but there’s been no movement from DHS’s bosses or in fact any sign whatsoever that they actually want to resolve this.”

She said the strikes came at a period of high demand for DHS services and were expected to cause ‘significant disruption’ to the department and its clients.

It is not known whether the strike will affect DHS’ Mobile Services, which are helping people get emergency help in flood-hit areas of Queensland.

In the past, the Department has requested the union grant exemptions to strikes on the grounds they could cause unnecessary hardship to claimants and the CPSU said they had always agreed to these requests.

A CPSU spokesperson said it was difficult to predict the effects of the two-week strike because it depended on DHS’ contingency plans as to where the impact would be felt.

DHS General Manager Hank Jongen said that the strike action, which includes Easter and Anzac Day, was designed to disrupt DHS' face-to-face and telephone services.

He said it was an attempt by the union to make it 'even harder' for people who used its services but that it would not succeed, predicting that the impact of the industrial action would be 'minimal' and there would no disruption to existing payments.

"Our priority is ensuring that the those most vulnerable or with urgent queries get the support they need," Mr Jongen said. "People can also access services through myGov and the Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support mobile apps – these will not be affected by any stoppages."

He said the union's actions would not change the department’s bargaining position around the new Enterprise Agreement.

"The department and the CPSU are currently making progress in bargaining before the Fair Work CommissionWe are disappointed the union is initiating more industrial action while we continue to bargain in good faith.

"In our most recent offer we committed to maintaining virtually all existing staff entitlements, including all our family friendly entitlements. We are also offering staff a pay rise that is both affordable and in line with community standards."

 
                    [post_title] => Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support staff step up strikes
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                    [post_content] => 

Shadow Human Services Minister Linda Burney. 

 

The Shadow Minister for Human Services, Linda Burney, attacked the Turnbull government in Parliament last night over what she said was the ‘disgusting’ treatment of Department of Human Services’ (DHS) staff, who are still waiting for a new enterprise bargaining agreement (EBA) after three years.

Ms Burney cut a lonely figure in Parliament – most members seemed to have gone home – but ploughed on, talking about the pay and working conditions dispute, which she said impacted disproportionately on women and families.

 


Empty chamber. 

 

Women make up 70 per cent of DHS staff and around one-third of them work part-time. DHS is the largest government department with about 35,000 staff and runs Medicare, Centrelink and the Child Support network.

“The proposed EBA gives employees no access to flexible, regular hours leaving rostering decisions to be made ad hoc by management,” Ms Burney said, adding that it made school drop off and picks up a nightmare, especially where work locations could change too.

“Three years since the negotiations began, there has been no offer that addresses the years’ long wage freeze employees have been subjected to,” she said.

She also heaped criticism on the government for blocking domestic violence leave and increasingly casualising the workforce.

“Thirty-six million calls go unanswered. Seventy per cent of new staff hired were casuals in the last financial year,” she said.

“It is incomprehensible that people that are under so much pressure and do such important work with the Department of Human Services are being treated so disgustingly by this government.”

DHS staff who are union members began a series of rolling strikes last week after the Department and the Community and Public Sector Union reached an impasse at the Fair Work Commission over pay and working conditions.

DHS staff have already rejected EBAs three times: By 83 per cent in September 2015; 80 per cent in February 2016 and 74 per cent in November 2016 and there seems no end in sight to the dispute.
                    [post_title] => Burney calls out Turnbull government over treatment of DHS staff
                    [post_excerpt] => Says women hit hardest.
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                    [post_content] => 

 

 

Today (Friday) is the first day of rolling strikes by staff at Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency, as the union ramps up its fight for a new enterprise agreement for Human Services workers.

Community and Public Service Union members (CPSU) begin a new round of strike action between 1.3 0pm and 8.30pm today in protest at what the union says is the federal government’s intractable stance on pay and working conditions, a dispute that has dragged on for three years.

Asked how the strike would affect benefit claimants, a CPSU spokesperson said it was ‘difficult to predict’ what impact industrial action would have. 

“Based on past strike action there may be increased wait times at customer service centres and for telephone queries,” the spokesperson said, describing the strike as 'open-ended'. 

“The intention of the action is to pressure Department of Human Services’ (DHS) management and the Turnbull Government to fairly resolve enterprise bargaining.”

He asked the public to be patient and advised them to access DHS services outside the notified strike times.

 “DHS staff are taking this action because they’ve been fighting for a new agreement since 2013 and have gone well over three years without a pay rise,” he said.

Department of Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen said customer payments would not be affected by the strikes but he added that there may be 'reduced numbers' of staff in service centres and on the phones.

He said DHS was working hard to minimise disruption to services.

“We’re asking customers to use the self-service options available through myGov and the Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support mobile apps,” Mr Jongen said.

“We will have arrangements in place to make sure that staff will still be available to help those in financial hardship and who need immediate assistance.”

The union postponed strikes in February in order to negotiate with the Department, talks mediated by the Fair Work Commission. When the talks came to nothing, strikes were back on the table.

CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “This protracted dispute had gone on for far, far too long. It’s bad for people working in Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support, it’s bad for their families and it’s bad for the essential services our members in DHS provide. That’s why our members are going back on strike.

“We agreed in February to hold off on taking fresh industrial action and instead proceed with negotiations overseen by the Fair Work Commission. The CPSU has negotiated in good faith but unfortunately DHS stands out from other Commonwealth agencies where we are making progress.”

Mr Jongen presented a starkly different picture of how negotiations between the department and the CPSU were going, saying “we are making progress”.

“In its most recent offer, the department has committed to maintaining virtually all existing staff entitlements, including all its family friendly entitlements, and giving its staff a pay rise that is both affordable and in line with community standards,” Mr Jongen said.

“The department is, however, disappointed that the CPSU has initiated further industrial action while we continue to bargain before the Fair Work Commission.”

He said the strikes would not alter the Department’s bargaining position and added that staff would have the chance to vote on a new enterprise agreement as soon as possible.

Meanwhile Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) staff are awaiting the Fair Work Commission’s decision on their enterprise bargaining agreement, after the Commission stepped in at the end of last year to arbitrate between the union and the DIBP.

 

Want the latest public sector news delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up the Government News newsletter.
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                    [post_content] =>   Medicare
The Department of Health (DOH) is brainstorming the overhaul of its ancient IT systems which together deliver more than 600 million health, aged care and veterans’ payments annually to 99 per cent of Australians.

Health issued a Request for Information (RFI) earlier this week asking companies, including small and medium-sized ones, for their input and advice on designing and delivering the new Digital Payments Platform to replace the current one, which has evolved over 30 years.

The current system is incredibly complex and supports a huge range of payments including the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Medicare, aged care and related veterans’ payments, totalling around $50 billion.

“The Medicare systems alone comprise over 200 applications and 90 databases, many of which are ageing and based on obsolete technology,” say the RFI documents.

The government is under no illusions that the current system is broken and needs replacing.

“The current systems have become increasingly complex with a tightly coupled and inflexible architecture," says the RFI.

 “The systems are no longer fit for purpose. They are unable to support the level of flexibility and service innovation that users – individuals and providers – and the government expect.”

There are a number of bespoke applications, all with different authentication processes for consumers and providers.

"Just as Australian families have upgraded their computers since the 1980s, the time has come for the government's health payments systems to do the same," the government said.

"The RFI provides an opportunity for respondents, including small and medium enterprises, to shape the future design of the new system which the Australian government will continue to own, operate, and deliver."

Reforming the payments system is a touchy subject after the attention it received during the 2016 federal election.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten seized upon the possibility of Medicare payments being outsourced to run his ‘Mediscare’ campaign during the 2016 federal election, suggesting it was a Trojan horse to privatise Medicare itself.

The Department is at pains to point out that the federal government will continue ‘to own, operate and deliver’ the payments as its asks for outside input.

“For the avoidance of doubt, the government is not seeking proposals for outsourcing,” it states.

 

Content of the RFI

In the RFI respondents are asked to estimate the cost of designing and building the new system and implementation and transition costs over five years; as well as how much it will cost to run.

The RFI is stage one of the project, stage two is the procurement phase of the Digital Payments Platform. The RFI will not be used to shortlist any suppliers for stage two procurement.

The DOH will be sizing up potential partners to get an idea of the level of interest, capability and capacity in the market and different procurement options.

The project will involve multiple phases over several years and will need to be able to adapt and grow to new payments and legislation.

The RFI mentions that interested parties should be able to demonstrate how ‘progress could be achieved by early 2019’.

“The vision for the program is to deliver a new Digital Payments Platform that supports a digital-first (or digitally enabled) service delivery business model and simpler, faster, easier services for users,” it said.

DOH said it designed the RFI in consultation with users, health and aged care providers and other stakeholders.

The deadline for respondents is April 4 and a procurement phase for the new digital payments platform will start in mid-2017.

Meanwhile, the new multi-billion dollar DHS payments system, Welfare Payments Infrastructure Transformation (WPIT), responsible for processing more than $100 billion Centrelink payments annually, including payments like Austudy and Youth Allowance, is also being radically reimagined over the course of the next seven years. 

 

Want the latest public sector news delivered straight to your inbox? Click here to sign up the Government News newsletter.
                    [post_title] => Health brainstorms new IT system for Medicare and aged care payments
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                    [post_content] => 
Labor's 2016 Mediscare TV and YouTube ad featuring Bob Hawke. Pic: YouTube

 

 

Labor has launched an online portal encouraging Australians to submit their experiences of Medicare and the impact of healthcare cuts, in a sign that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will continue to attack Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Medicare.

Mr Shorten said the new portal – mymedicarestory.com - was established in response to complaints from Australians about ‘serious delays in Medicare processing’ under the Turnbull government. He said some people had reported a six-week delay getting a refund.

“We know that because of this Government's cuts to vital services some people are falling through the cracks,” Mr Shorten said. “We want to know when that happens, so we can help ensure our health care system is strengthened now and in the future.

“Labor will never stop fighting to protect Medicare from Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals. Today there is a clear message for Malcolm Turnbull -  give Medicare the best  birthday present by dropping the savage cuts to health which will see bulk billing drop, every Australian pay more and Medicare undermined.”

Submissions using the portal are anonymous and can be confidential, if requested.

Mr Shorten’s Mediscare message – warning voters that Mr Turnbull was trying to sell off or privatise Medicare through the back door - became central to Labor’s campaign during the 2016 federal election.

The Opposition wheeled out former PM Bob Hawke to front the TV and YouTube advertising campaign, warning that the Liberals had set up “a Medicare privatisation taskforce” that would destroy the country’s healthcare system.

Mr Shorten used the fact that the government was exploring outsourcing Medicare payments as leverage to suggest that the whole kit and caboodle could follow suit.

Shortly afterwards, Mr Turnbull said Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, health, aged-care and related veterans’ payments would continue to be managed by the government and disbanded the $5 million Digital Payments Services Taskforce, which had been aided by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The Department of Health is understood to have held market briefings with IT providers in Sydney and Melbourne last month in a bid to select potential partners to help replace Medicare’s 30-year-old system ahead of the Request For Proposal.
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Can new federal Health Minister Greg Hunt take the pressure?

 

 

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has immediately been lobbied by the Australian Medical Association (AMA) and the Opposition in his new job, in an early indication (if one were needed) that managing his new portfolio is going to be as tough as some of the seven marathons he has run. 

Health was one of the key battlegrounds during last year’s federal election when Labor Leader Bill Shorten accused Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of having a secret agenda to privatise Medicare, holding up the possible outsourcing of Medicare payments as proof and wheeling out ex-PM Bob Hawke to star in an ad about it. The government denied the charge but damage was undoubtedly done to the Liberal vote.

Decisions about health budgets and policies have often become political hand grenades, think back to the $7 GP co-payment in Joe Hockey’s 2014 budget or Tony Abbott attempting to wind back Kevin Rudd’s hospital funding agreements with the state and territories in the same budget.

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon welcomed Mr Hunt’s appointment, beginning by buttering him up and listing his past achievements, including being named Best Minister in the World at the 2016 World Government Summit. There is no doubt that Mr Hunt represents a safe pair of hands and it doesn’t hurt that both his mother and his wife are nurses.

Mr Hunt was Minister for the Environment between 2013 and 2016 and Shadow Minister for six years before that. He was appointed Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science in July last year.

A major issue for the Association and its members is the ongoing freeze on Medicare rebates, begun by Labor in 2013 and projected to last until 2020.

The Medicare Benefits Schedule lists all the services the Australian Government will pay rebates for and the rebate is a percentage of the Medicare schedule fee. For example, the rebate is set at $37 for a GP consultation.

Doctors have argued that neither the Schedule fees that doctors who bulk bill agree to charge, nor the rebate, have kept pace with the real costs of providing these services by medical practitioners, squeezing them from both sides.

While doctors who don’t bulk bill can set their own fees the Medicare rebate covers a portion of these, leaving the patient to cover the gap.

For an excellent explanation of the Medicare rebate freeze on The Conversation click here.

Dr Gannon said he was keen to meet Mr Hunt as soon as possible to discuss policy and funding, particularly in the context of the upcoming budget in May.

“The AMA would like to see Mr Hunt get off to a flying start by scrapping the government’s freeze of Medicare patient rebates, which is causing great hardship for patients and doctors,” he said.

Labor has pledged to end the freeze and restore indexation.

Dr Gannon said Mr Hunt also needed to get across the reviews set in motion by former Health Minister Sussan Ley, principally the MBS, but also the review on private health insurance examining whether it is delivering value for money or not.

He also flagged public hospital funding, indigenous health, mental health, and prevention as areas that needed fixing.

Shadow Health Minister Catherine King also demanded the government abandon the Medicare freeze, which she said was “already having an impact on bulk billing rates and will drive up out-of-pocket costs”.

She accused the Turnbull Government of ‘changing their salesperson’ but not their health policy by appointing Mr Hunt and said she would be taking the new minister to task on cuts to pathology and bulk billing and cuts to dental programs for children. She also challenged him to drop the zombie cuts, such as the planned increases to PBS co-payments for general patients, concession patients and those with chronic illnesses.
                    [post_title] => Is the 'Best Minister in the World' a panacea for Health?
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                    [post_content] => phone hammer drop 


One year on and Human Services clients are still tearing their hair out in frustration over the Department’s dysfunctional, bug-ridden mobile apps.

According to user reviews, the three main apps -- Express Plus Centrelink, Express Plus Medicare and Express Plus Child Support -- are still giving users headaches and holding up benefit payments and Medicare claims.

Government News covered this sorry state of affairs in March last year and it appears few improvements have been made over the last 12 months. The same problems continue to occur and many customers remain disenchanted.

Apps designed to save time for customers and DHS staff end up driving people to despair and into their nearest DHS office or phone queue, twice as frustrated as before.

This app is crap photo1_opt (1)Express Plus Centrelink 

The Centrelink app was probably the most complained about of the three apps, with many reviewers hitting their caps lock and exclamation marks to vent their spleen. It is also probably the most heavily used, by students, job seekers, seniors and families to update family income estimates, report wages and update study details.

The most frequently mentioned gripes - using only current reviews from February to April 2016 - were:
  • Log-in problems
  • Long loading times
  • Difficulties reporting earnings or hours or updating personal details
  • Bugs in the registration screen, where users could not see the whole password they entered (Tip: if your password is longer than 8 characters keep typing then hit submit)
  • Frequent crashing
  • Poor layout
  • No notices about maintenance or outages
Customers had some choice words for the Department and its apps and many people were upset that they could not use the app to report their earnings or their hours. One Centrelink customer said: “It’s constantly down. Hopeless app. Hopeless system that keeps referring us to use the broken app. How is it that a department that so many people have to report to keeps getting it wrong?” Another said: “Tells me to report. Tells me I have not reported. The list goes on.” One enterprising wag suggested drug-addled rodents would do a better job: “Warning to anyone who plans to download this app: don’t, it will not let you report. A hamster on speed could report for you better. FFS!” “Had to spend an hour on the phone just to report my earnings because this app wouldn’t let me. Should have had this running properly before shutting down the job seeker’s app, which worked perfectly fine!!! Doesn’t even deserve one star!!! NOT HAPPY,” said another unsatisfied customer. Some people complained that they were not allowed to report their income until after the reporting date, at which time the app informed them they were too late: “Constantly down, won’t let me report yet tells me daily I’m overdue for reporting.” More seriously, some people said they had missed their benefit payments because of glitches in the app. “Says report has been submitted but not processed and I haven’t been paid. Will have to spend hours on the phone. Grr,” one frustrated person said. Another had also missed out on payments: “Not sure Centrelink are getting my updates for the past month. I updated my study twice. Now I’ve missed out two fortnights of payments so I’ll be expecting back pay. Says my claim is incomplete so I click on it and it won’t do anything. I’m going to have to go into office and get it sorted.” One Express Plus Centrelink user said: “If DHS employees had these many hoops and roundabouts to get paid there’d be a senate inquiry. Alan Tudge sir, you suck!” There were a few words of cold comfort for Human Services, “Yeah, not bad. Considering that this is a government app it appears to work ok.” “App has improved recently and is really helpful” and “very well laid out application. Easy to report my income using the timesheet option.” Express Plus Medicare The Express Plus Medicare app, which can be used to claim Medicare benefits and view information such as immunisation records and your Medicare Safety Net balance, came in for a bit of a serve too. Claimants reported difficulty installing and opening the app, constant crashing and over-compressing images of photographed documents so that claims could not be read or processed. Comments included: “Can’t even take clear photo of invoice through app (photo is pixelated). What is the point if we can’t take a clear picture? This app is really terrible. Please get your act together and stop wasting the taxpayers’ money and produce an app that functions as it should. The government wants us to use these news tools to innovate but can’t even write a simple app!” “Stupid app is stupid. When are claimants going to be able to claim Medicare rebates easily?” One Medicare user said it took him four attempts to claim resulting in him receiving a Medicare letter by post demanding more information: “this app is so buggy it makes going to a Medicare office the quick and easy option.” “Even giving it one star is favouring it. The most useless app ever.” “The level of suckyness (sic) of this app is unending.” “Your stupid app only crashes and your staff insist I use it and won’t help me in person.” “What a convoluted process to try and make a claim. Linking accounts, have a My Gov account, need a user names, password, secret questions, PIN! Need to go to the My Gov website, will not accept personal details! Dozens of prompts in help section! You cannot be serious about citizens using this app!” Express Child Support There were similar but fewer rotten tomato reviews for the Department’s child support app, with users complaining about loading problems, log-in difficulties, limited functionality and not being able to load documents. One said: “Worst app of all time … doesn’t ever load. Need to check apps before u (sic) make them available.” “This app has never opened since I installed it. It keeps saying “unfortunately child support has stopped working. EVERY SINGLE TIME I OPEN IT!!” This app won’t log in at all.” “So far it’s still downloading and has been for five and a half hours.” An app developer's view App developer Danny Gorog from Outware took a look at the Express Plus apps and gave Government News his verdict, one year on from his last comments. Mr Gorog, who is currently designing apps for Transport NSW, said he could see little improvement since he last reviewed the apps for Government News in March 2015. He said the user interface (UI) remained very complicated. “It’s a non-native app … it feels very clunky and it feels like a situation that no-one is really taking seriously,” Mr Gorog said. “I’m sure they’ve spent a lot of money on it but it feels like it has been built as a cross-platform app, using the same code for Android and Apple.” He was also heavily critical of the lack of accessibility for people with disabilities, such as vision impairment. “Apple and Google have very strict accessibility guidelines so people with disabilities won’t find it hard to use. The accessibility and the UI should be thought through. “I had a look at it and I’m disappointed,” he said. “It needs to conform to iOS and Android guidelines of how apps should look and work on the platform and this doesn’t conform to any of them. I would be building native code.” Mr Gorog said those responsible for developing the app needed to trawl through customer complaints and start fixing things. “The truth is that it’s often hard for government. They’ve got a budget for app development for the year. The number is normally too low and the government wants cheaper solutions. “[they might say] “we are over budget and you can’t spend any more.” Response from Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen (in full) Government News  sought comment from Human Services regarding the user experience and performance of the department's apps. Human Services General Manager Hank Jongen said: "The multiple award winning Express Plus mobile apps continue to be a highly popular way for our customers to self-manage their routine business with the department, with the number of downloads approaching 7 million as of February 2016. "As technology evolves, we continue to make enhancements to our mobile apps to ensure they remain world class and continue to provide superior digital access to services for our customers. "We’ve added new functionality like booking appointments and Income Management to enable our customers to use mobile apps for more services. Further improvements are planned for next financial year and will be communicated to customers when they become live. "Our apps have proven to be hugely popular with our customers and demand continues to grow with more than two million new app downloads and more than 54 million transactions made using the apps in the 2015-16 financial year to date. At any one time we have an average of 80,000 concurrent connections through our gateway. "All customer complaints and feedback made through our feedback channels are responded to in accordance with the DHS complaints and feedback policy. While we do monitor customer feedback on iTunes and Google Play, we do not respond to comments, leave reviews or post information in the reviews section. "We work as one digital team across the Department and in close collaboration with the Digital Transformation Office. This approach ensures all digital products are developed in multi-disciplinary teams that include insights from technologists, specialist, and frontline staff and often directly from our customers as well. This ensures an end-to-end solution approach and greater uptake." [post_title] => Best of 2016: This app is STILL crap: Centrelink and Medicare clients [post_excerpt] => One year on: "The most useless app ever". [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => this-app-is-still-crap-centrelink-and-medicare-clients [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 16:44:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 05:44:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=23640 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 9 [filter] => raw ) [12] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25870 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-12-19 17:22:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-19 06:22:39 [post_content] => Sydney, Australia - August 6, 2013: People entering and leaving a Centrelink and Medicare service centre in Mount Druitt, western Sydney. Centrelink is the Australian government agency responsible for administering social security benefits, while Medicare assists in subsidising health care treatment.     As the complete reimagining of the way welfare payments are processed in Australia enters its delivery phase, Government News looks at the risks and opportunities this quantum cultural and technological leap presents. The Department of Human Services (DHS) will splash out more than $1 billion and spend seven-years rolling out what has been billed as a once-in-a-generation business transformation under the Welfare Payments Infrastructure Transformation (WPIT). Work began in July 2015 and will be delivered in five tranches, finishing in 2022, with suppliers competing for a piece of the action in each tranche. SAP has been chosen as the preferred core software vendor and will co-design and build the new system while the lucrative systems integration contract will go to either Capgemini or Accenture. There will also be a panel of “top ranking firms”, which could include the firm that comes in second place, who will be asked to bid for the other project stages. Panel members could be engaged to supply services around data migration, systems integration and other support services.   Dangers Overhauling the welfare payments legacy system is a labyrinthine undertaking and an incredibly sensitive task. There are 30 million lines of code to disentangle and 40 different core payments, along with 38 add-ons. Delays or stuff-ups could affect the benefit payments of millions of people, many of whom might be vulnerable and living hand-to-mouth, and work must also be managed so that it can be rolled out gradually while keeping the current system going. CEO of business management systems company Holocentric, Bruce Nixon, said that overhauling the DHS’s 30-year old legacy system was a “massive and incredibly complex” piece of work but a necessary one, particularly as the public’s expectations of interacting online with government and with businesses continued to increase. Nixon says it is encouraging that the DHS is talking about the overhaul as a major business transformation, not just a systems upgrade. Getting the planning, scoping and design stage right initially would have been essential and this will become clear as the project advances, he said this would have meant understanding where you are starting from and knowing what you want the new system to achieve, “It’s a business transformation, not a systems transformation.”  
  • Partners working separately, not in unison
Nixon says that because multiple companies are involved in delivering WPIT, there is an increased risk that they may fail communicate their progress to one other. The key, he says, is to have transparency and maintain good documentation using a system where everybody can see what work is being done. “The translation of information adds to the risk. How do you make sure that everybody is working to the same agenda? You need a blueprint,” Nixon said. “[It should outline] the processes people need to follow, the role they will play, system design, decisions made and the impact on welfare recipients. There needs to be a single source of truth about how things are going to work in the future and everybody refers to it.” Hammering out expectations and detailing how performance will be monitored are also important. “Misunderstandings about what needs to be delivered and pressure can make things worse,” he said.
  • Avoiding inflexibility
Governments change their budgets and their policies and this can often have a big impact on welfare payments and entitlements, which makes it important to design a flexible system that can incorporate these. Nixon said flexibility was achieved by understanding the current system inside out and being across all the different parts of the work required to redesign it. Project partners will also need to be flexible, for example to take advantage of new capability and technology, because a great deal could change during the seven-year life of the project.
  • Communicating with staff
Business transformation is not just about IT, it will also be about DHS staff and taking them on the journey too. DHS Deputy Secretary John Murphy said last month that winning over Human Services’ 36,000 workforce to new ways of working would be a bigger challenge than mastering the technical side of things. Nixon agrees and said what people resent most is being kept in the dark about new processes and systems and then ordered to use them. Communicating early on is key: “It is critical in any business transformation, to provide clarity for people, giving them an understanding, being transparent.” The trap some businesses fell into was blowing most of the budget on technology, he said, “You’ve spent money on the systems’ changes and none left to invest in the people side.”  
  • Lack of disaster planning
Nixon says that CensusFail was a cautionary tale for government departments and agencies about risk management, procurement, contract design and monitoring. He said that risks should be anticipated and contingency plans built into the program of work by getting a deep understanding of how the system will be used, how the public will interact with it, what the processes are and the system’s capability. Opportunities The greatest potential the WIPIT program has is to light a rocket underneath the behemoth department’s much-maligned service delivery. Done well, it could reduce the frustration many people feel when they interact with the department, whether it’s using a PC, at a customer service centre, via an app or over the phone and make services more convenient, equitable and reliable.   DHS has long been plagued by criticisms of the service it provides, from people not being able to log into the MyGov portal, the skittish mobile apps and payment processing delays to tortuous  hours spent waiting on hold. The services the department provides, Centrelink, child support and Medicare, touch millions of Australians’ lives and people have no choice but to interact with it. The federal government’s eventual aim to follow the UK and make Australian government digital by default cannot ignore Human Services, the largest Commonwealth government department. Nixon said as well as creating greater satisfaction for the customer and showcasing the government’s digital transformation agenda, the changes could also make it easier for staff to operate more effectively behind the scenes and increase their job satisfaction. Indeed, John Murphy has said that upgrading the processes and systems has the potential to free up benefits staff to deal with the more difficult, specialised inquiries rather than fending off routine inquiries, for example, about entitlement to various benefits or the progress of claims. [post_title] => Dismantling Human Services’ legacy system [post_excerpt] => What could possibly go wrong? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => 25870 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-20 12:28:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-20 01:28:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25870 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [13] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 25680 [post_author] => 659 [post_date] => 2016-11-29 10:43:58 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-28 23:43:58 [post_content] => scrooge1_opt Prime Minister should give up being Scrooge, says union.      Union members from the 35,000-strong Department of Human Services (DHS) will go out on strike on four days before Christmas in protest over the federal government’s fixed stance on their pay and conditions. The strikes will affect union members at Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support and include workers at call centres and customer service centres at various times on Monday, December 5, Friday, December 9, Monday, December 12 and Friday, December 16. It is the latest shot across the bow from union members at DHS who have already rejected three agreements over the last three years, most recently in mid-November with a 74 per cent no-vote. They had already rejected the government’s proposed enterprise bargaining agreement in February 2016 (by 79 per cent) and September 2015 (by 83 per cent). Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) National Secretary Nadine Flood said workers were striking as they faced their third Christmas without a pay rise because they were “frustrated and worried by the Turnbull Government’s mean and illogical public sector bargaining policy”. She said that the harsh impact of the long-running APS bargaining dispute has been laid bare during a Senate inquiry which received 600 submissions – many of these personal - and ran public hearings, where APS workers told of the hardship and distress the dispute had caused them. Ms Flood said: “DHS staff work every day to help ordinary Australians but they’ve been doing it pretty tough themselves for three long years as the government’s frozen their pay while trying to strip essential rights, such as the family-friendly conditions that allow a call-centre worker to balance shift work with raising a family. “These workers are among the lowest paid in the Commonwealth public sector, and stand to lose the most under the Government’s policy. They want to go on strike, even though they can’t really afford to but they are absolutely desperate for Government to do something. It really underlines how nasty this bargaining mess is.” Industrial action was a last ditch attempt to  highlight their plight, she said. "It’s the same reason why hundreds of them made personal submissions to the Senate inquiry into public sector bargaining, telling their personal stories of financial hardship and their worry that the enterprise agreement being pushed by their bosses will force them to choose between their job and their family.” In a Dickensian Christmas appeal to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Ms Flood said “Surely there’s no better time than Christmas for the Prime Minister to stop playing Scrooge and change the public sector bargaining policy to allow a fair and reasonable settlement".   Details of the strikes Monday, December 5 7am – 11am local time: Limited impact on administrative functions 1pm – 6pm local time: Possible impact on ‘Smart Centre’ call centre and processing services   Friday, December 9 7am – 11am local time: Limited impact on administrative functions 1pm – 6pm local time: Possible impact on ‘Customer Service Centre’ face-to-face services   Monday, December 12 7am – 11am local time: Limited impact on administrative functions 1pm – 6pm local time: Possible impact on ‘Customer Service Centre’ face-to-face services   Friday, December 16 7am – 11am local time: Limited impact on administrative functions 1pm – 6pm local time: Possible impact on ‘Smart Centre’ call centre and processing services   [post_title] => Four-day strike at Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support before Christmas [post_excerpt] => Stop playing Scrooge, union tells Turnbull.   [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => four-day-strike-centrelink-medicare-child-support-christmas [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-29 10:45:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-28 23:45:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.governmentnews.com.au/?p=25680 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 14 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 27490 [post_author] => 670 [post_date] => 2017-06-29 12:19:13 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-29 02:19:13 [post_content] => The Department of Human Services has advised the CPSU that approximately 2,000 permanent jobs will be created in order to improve services for customers and reduce pressure on staff. The agency covering Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support said it expects the majority of new permanent positions will be filled by current casual staff, as the department seeks to reduce its use of non-going workers. The department expects recruitment for the permanent jobs will be concluded in August, with the roles mostly to cover call centre and processing work in offices around the country. CPSU National Secretary Nadine Flood said: “This is an enormously significant announcement that will give a much-needed boost to service standards for Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support customers whilst easing the intense pressure faced by DHS staff. We’re working closely with DHS to ensure these jobs are created quickly and fairly. “This will provide around 2,000 people in communities around the country with quality, permanent employment and offer some desperately needed support to their colleagues struggling under impossible workloads and also dealing with increased customer agitation and aggression as a result. “People employed casually by DHS already make a valuable contribution, but giving them permanent jobs will mean they receive the comprehensive training that is required to fully help customers through sensitive issues and often complex processes.” “The department deserves congratulations for taking this first step to turn around what has been an unacceptable slide in service standards, as we’ve seen with the 42 million calls blocked with a busy signal just in the first 10 months of this financial year and with the tens of thousands of people unfairly caught up in robo-debt.” The decision follows months of controversy over the robo-debt debacle and lack of service availability at Centrelink, culminating in Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support staff stepping up strikes in April. “DHS has been described as an agency in crisis,” Ms Flood said. “These jobs will help repair that damage, while the department also needs to agree a fair and reasonable outcome to resolve enterprise bargaining and implement the key recommendations of last week's inquiry report into robo-debt.” Meanwhile in NSW, 400 may be cut The Public Service Association believes the NSW Government will slash more than 400 jobs in disability services and child protection. The cuts will be of frontline jobs in areas such as disability services, child protection and housing, as part of the 2017-2018 budget. Under the Family and Community Services (FACS) Cluster Operating Model, the NSW Government has outlined plans to shed at least 429 jobs across Sydney and regional NSW. Even more jobs are expected to go as further cuts are announced to corporate and state-wide services in the coming weeks. The PSA says many of these jobs are in regional and remote NSW where service provision is already stretched and comparable employment isn’t available.     [post_title] => Centrelink, Medicare, Child Support to get 2,000 permanent jobs, NSW to lose 400 [post_excerpt] => The Department of Human Services will create approximately 2,000 permanent jobs in Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support. 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