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This man beat Centrelink's system and he says you can too

Uni student Tom Wade was one of hundreds of thousands of Australians driven to despair by Centrelink's customer service performance.

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University student Tom Wade spent an hour on the phone to Centrelink and got nowhere with his issue. So, he went up the chain of command, and here's how he did it.

But instead of getting mad, Mr Wade got busy, accessing the Australian Government Directory and confronting senior Department of Human Services Bureaucrats directly with his complaints.

The administrative blunder was soon sorted, Mr Wade says, and he is encouraging frustrated clients to take their grievances up Centrelink's food chain, saying departmental bosses should be held accountable for the failings at the coalface.

Tom Wade used the Commonwealth government directory to contact senior executives in the Department of Human Service when ...
Tom Wade used the Commonwealth government directory to contact senior executives in the Department of Human Service when he couldn't get through to Centrelink using the official channels.  Photo: Chris Hopkins

When Mr Wade's youth allowance payments were cancelled in late 2014 he did what most clients do and took to Centrelink's phone lines to solve the problem.

But in a story that will be all too familiar with hundreds of thousands of clients of the welfare agency, seemingly endless periods of waiting on hold resulted in being put through to someone who could not help the Melbourne student.

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So, after using search engine Google to figure out who were the power people behind the scenes at Centrelink, the 23-year-old stumbled on his most powerful weapon; the Australian Government Directory.

"I got on the organisational structure from the Department of Human Services' website and just started Googling people from the top down, starting with Kathryn Campbell the secretary,

"Then I did [DHS customer service boss] Grant Tidswell, the second one down and his entry in the directory was the second Google result."

Eventually, Mr Wade settled his attentions on Brendan Jacomb, DHS' national manager of "service delivery performance and analysis".

"I got through to him directly and he's the one to who I started dishing out the (performance) targets from the department's annual report," Mr Wade said.

"He was caught a bit off guard about that, kinda surprised, but he said they'd get back to me about the details."

After the internal DHS blunder that caused his payment cut-off was corrected, Mr Wade decided he had hit on a winning formula and ran with it.

"I had to fix up the detail of my Medicare account, so instead of calling general inquiries and waiting ages, I found the lady in charge of Medicare, rang her up and asked her to fix it up for me," he said.

"She asked 'Where did you get my number?' and I just said I looked her up directly.

"She didn't know what to say to that, but she did forward me to the right people and I got straight through."

The department was not enthusiastic about Mr Wade's approach, with a spokesman saying that anyone unhappy with the service they have received should go through the usual channels.

"Customers can ask for a review of a decision, provide feedback or make a complaint by writing to us, calling 1800 132 468 or visiting one of our service centres," a spokeswoman told Fairfax.

After finishing his degree and moving into the workforce, Mr Wade is no longer a Centrelink client but he encourages anyone feeling the frustration of dealing with the giant agency to use his methods.

"For anyone who wants to get in touch with Centrelink, you already know the general inquiries lines are going to be backed up and a slow process, so find the person you feel has the power to help you directly and get in contact," he said.

"Put the responsibility on someone in a position of authority to help you with your problem.

"Sh*t rolls downhill so you've got to aim as high as you can, if you get in touch with someone too high up to deal with your problem then they will delegate."

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