National

Centrelink clients endure a nightmare before Christmas

A screenshot of the Centrelink website.
A screenshot of the Centrelink website. 

Thousands of Centrelink clients around Australia remain nervous of the prospect of Christmas without their welfare payments as the agency's website remains in meltdown.

The welfare agency's parent department Human Services says the problems were fixed and that no clients had missed payments.

But the glitches and outages that have plagued the vital website for weeks persisted into Thursday and Fairfax Media has been inundated by Centrelink customers still panicked that their payments were either late or might not come through at all.

The department refuses to say what exactly has gone wrong with its web systems but an insider alleges that the entry point server is now too small to handle the volume of traffic and the complexity of transactions supposed to go through it.

Fairfax Media reported on Tuesday that Human Services had apologised to clients over what it says are "intermittent issues" and encouraged users to log on to its mobile apps, which have been working normally.

Are you having a Centrelink online crisis? Tell us ps@canberratimes.com.au

Blue Mountains mother Rosa Pascoe told of how her daughter's birthday was ruined when her regular disability benefit payment failed to come though on Wednesday and she was unable to log onto Centrelink's website.

"It told me that my payment information, amongst other info, was currently unavailable and to try again later," she said.

Ms Pascoe, who can only undertake her teaching work intermittently because of a number of chronic conditions, took to Centrelink's notorious phone lines to see what had happened to her disability benefit. "I then tried to call and speak to someone and four hours and five minutes later I [was] still on hold," she said.

"This is not how I intended to spend my daughter's birthday."

As late as the small hours of Thursday morning, desperate clients trying to log-on to the website in the middle of the night when traffic should be low said they were shut out of their accounts.

"Have tried to log into Centrelink to report 3.27am Brisbane time & still down," one Queensland-based client said.

"Tried both the normal website & their mobile site and no luck.

"Not very good when people are expecting payments & need to purchase Christmas things."

On Wednesday afternoon, a member of DHS' media team insisted that the system was working again.

"Services have now been restored and customers are able to use Centrelink online services to complete a range of transactions, including reporting income," the spokeswoman said.

"We apologise for any inconvenience caused to our customers.

"The intermittent issues with Centrelink online services did not directly affect any customer payments.

"The department has many alternative channels, including mobile apps, and these were not affected.

"Customers who are concerned about their immediate payments can visit a service centre for face-to-face assistance, or call their usual payment line."

But an attempt by Fairfax to access the Centrelink site at 11.15 am on Thursday morning brought up a "not available" message.

A DHS spokesman said it was a temporary glitch and that customers were able to conduct business as usual.

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