What you can expect from Centrelink

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1 What you can expect from Centrelink Centrelink s Customer Service Charter

2 This charter tells you the standard of service you can expect from Centrelink and what to do if you are unhappy with the service you received. It also tells you about your responsibilities as a Centrelink customer. It was developed with input from customers, policy departments, community representatives and Centrelink staff. If you have any comments about this Service Charter please us at gov.au or contact us using any of the other options described in this document. 2

3 What you can expect from Centrelink About Centrelink Centrelink is an Australian Government agency within the Human Services portfolio. We deliver payments and services for a number of government departments. Our purpose is to assist people to become more self-suffi cient and improve the opportunities of people who are of working age to fi nd a job, while supporting those in need. We also support those who require special assistance during different life stages such as planning for retirement, experiencing illness or a crisis. We have over 300 Customer Service Centres Australia-wide and more than 20 Call Centres. We also have over 500 agents and access points in rural and remote Australia with free phone and fax available for Centrelink business. You can access our online services from any computer with internet access, Centrelink offi ce or Centrelink agent. CEO statement We know you value good customer service. Our aim is to give you access to easy, high-quality services that work for you. This Service Charter tells you what you can expect from us, what you need to know about your responsibilities and how to let us know if we are doing well or could do better. It also tells you about how we keep an eye on ourselves by measuring whether we are meeting our commitments to you. Carolyn Hogg Chief Executive Offi cer Centrelink 3

4 Contents About Centrelink 3 CEO statement 3 Contents 4 What you can expect from us 5 1. You can expect us to make it easy for you to use our services You can expect us to treat you with respect and courtesy You can expect us to explain your options to you You can expect us to respect your rights. 8 4 How will we know whether we have met our commitments to you? 8 How you can help us 9 Your responsibilities 10 What to do if you think a decision is wrong 11 Compensation from Centrelink 11 How you can tell us what you think of our services 12 The Commonwealth Ombudsman 14 Your privacy 14 You can see documents we hold about you 15 How to contact us 16 By phone 16 In person 18 In writing 18 Centrelink self service 19 How to find out more about other relevant Centrelink publications 21 Help in other languages 22 For further information 22 Languages other than English 23

5 What you can expect from Centrelink What you can expect from us 1. You can expect us to make it easy for you to use our services. We will do this by: making it as convenient as possible for you to contact us or do business with us in person, over the phone or through agents and access points in rural and remote Australia making information available online that will satisfy your need for general enquiries and increasing access to Centrelink services on the internet providing offi ces where you can feel safe and your personal privacy is assured, and providing interpreter or teletypewriter (TTY) services if you need them. If you need an interpreter or a translation service for any documents you need to support a Centrelink claim we will provide one at no cost to you. Confi dentiality provisions and a Code of Ethics cover Centrelink interpreters and translators which means you can be sure that your information remains private. If you are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment, you can contact Centrelink using the free TTY service (see page 17). A TTY service is also available if you wish to contact the Customer Relations line to provide comments, feedback, complaints or compliments. Some Centrelink Customer Service Centres and Call Centres have Indigenous staff who speak Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander languages. If you need assistance from these staff please ask us. 5

6 This is how you can judge whether we have made it easy for you to use our services. We will answer 70 per cent of your phone calls within two and a half minutes (you may have to wait longer during our busiest times). We will reduce the time that you wait in a queue when you come in to a Centrelink offi ce. If we can t answer your question immediately, we will get back to you within an agreed time. 2. You can expect us to treat you with respect and courtesy. We will do this by: being friendly, courteous, fair and impartial in our dealings with you treating you with dignity and respect behaving with honesty and integrity identifying ourselves when we talk to you, and having trained and professional staff who will uphold the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct. This is how you can judge whether we have treated you with respect and courtesy. We will always behave towards you in a way that upholds the Australian Public Service Code of conduct (www.apsc.gov.au) and the principles of the Charter of Public Service in a Culturally Diverse Society (www.immi.gov.au). 6

7 What you can expect from Centrelink 3. You can expect us to explain your options to you. This means we will: explain the Centrelink services and payments that are available to you and that meet your personal circumstances give you complete information that is accurate, consistent and easy to understand explain what you need to know and what you need to do do all your Centrelink business when you contact us correct any mistake openly, honestly and quickly, and respond courteously and promptly to any complaint you have about our service. This is how you can judge whether we have explained your options to you. At all times we will work with you to match Centrelink services and resources to your individual circumstances. We will work with you to resolve any complaint as early as possible but we may take up to fi ve working days to answer more complicated complaints. 7

8 4. You can expect us to respect your rights. This means we will respect your right to: seek a review of, or to appeal social security decisions we make (see page 11) see the information we hold about you in accordance with the law (see page 14), and have your personal information protected and not disclosed to anyone else without your consent or unless the law requires us to disclose it (see page 14). This is how you can judge whether we have respected your rights. We will clearly explain our decisions to you and tell you about your rights and responsibilities and what you need to do. When you ask Centrelink to review a decision we have made, the review will usually be completed within 28 days. How will we know whether we have met our commitments to you? We will be asking you through regular surveys, listening to your feedback and talking to community organisations and other government agencies and departments to monitor how well we are doing. The results will be used to regularly update and improve the way we deliver services to you and will be published in the Centrelink Annual Report and online at 8

9 What you can expect from Centrelink We want to hear from you if you feel we haven t met our commitments to you (see page 12). How you can help us We can provide a better service if you: treat our staff with courtesy and respect have your Customer Reference Number (CRN) handy if you are already a customer (this appears on letters we send you) call us first if you have any questions this may save you time. Our website may also have the information you need (for example, confi rmation that your Centrelink payment is in your bank account). Remember in order to protect your privacy and security when using our self service facilities, never tell anyone else your PIN have all the requested information, documents and completed forms when you apply for any payment. Call us if you are unsure what you need to provide tell us as soon as possible if you have made a mistake, or you think we have made a mistake, and let us know if you will be late or are unable to keep an appointment you have with us. You can either call the number shown on your letter if you have one, or call to let us know. 9

10 Your responsibilities To continue to receive correct services and payments from us, you are expected to: Tell us if your circumstances have changed or are about to change If you have changes in your circumstances like fi nding a job, changing living arrangements or address, or starting or stopping study, you need to tell us. If you don t tell us about changes in your circumstances, you may receive payments you are not entitled to receive. Meet any other necessary conditions for the services or payments you are receiving You may need to meet certain conditions, for example, look for work, study or meet appointments that are arranged for you, to receive payments from Centrelink. If you are unsure about the conditions for receiving your payment, please ask us. Read, or have read to you, all the information we send or give to you Contact us if you don t understand the information. Tell us if you want to give someone else permission to do this on your behalf. Reply to our requests on time If we ask you to provide us with information within a certain amount of time, it is important that you do so. If you don t, your payment may be affected. If you are having trouble getting the information, please let us know. If you are unsure about any of your responsibilities, please ask us. 10

11 What you can expect from Centrelink What to do if you think a decision is wrong Our decisions about your entitlement to a payment or service are made under the law. You don t have to but if you wish, you can talk to the person who made the decision. Many people fi nd this a useful fi rst step. If you think a decision we have made is wrong, you have the right to: ask for the decision to be looked at by an independent senior offi cer (called an Authorised Review Offi cer) appeal to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (www.ssat.gov.au or call , or TTY ) if you disagree with the Authorised Review Offi cer s decision go to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (www.aat.gov.au or call , or TTY ) if you disagree with the Social Security Appeals Tribunal s decision. Claiming Compensation from Centrelink If you think Centrelink has made an error that has caused you a fi nancial loss or some other detriment, you may claim compensation from Centrelink. You can apply for compensation by visiting a Centrelink offi ce or phoning Centrelink does not discriminate against customers who claim compensation. 11

12 How you can tell us what you think of our services We value your opinion and want to hear what you think about the quality of our service. We want to know about the things you like about us and if you have any suggestions about how and where we could do better. We also want to hear from you if you have a complaint, as your experience can help us to improve our service to you and to others. To tell us anything about our service, you can: call our Customer Relations line on Freecall between 8.00 am and 5.00 pm Monday to Friday call the teletypewriter (TTY) service on Freecall between 8.00 am and 5.00 pm Monday to Friday if you have a hearing or speech impairment (a TTY phone is required to use this service) visit our website at and follow the contact us link then go message us to send us an fi ll in a Tell Us What You Think customer comment card available at any Centrelink offi ce or access it online at talk with a Centrelink staff member at any of our offi ces write to us at: The Manager Centrelink Customer Relations Reply Paid 7788 Canberra BC, ACT

13 What you can expect from Centrelink You don t have to tell us your name if you don t want to, but it will help us keep you informed about the progress of your complaint. Your privacy will always be respected. Centrelink will not discriminate against you if you make a complaint. If you think you have been discriminated against or disadvantaged because of a complaint you have made, please write to: The Manager Centrelink Customer Relations Reply Paid 7788 Canberra BC, ACT 2610 You can also ask for a copy of the factsheet Helping Centrelink improve its service complaints, compliments and feedback or access it online at 13

14 The Commonwealth Ombudsman You can contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman if you think we haven t provided you with an adequate service or if you think your complaint was not handled satisfactorily. The Ombudsman is independent of Centrelink. You can fi nd more information about the Ombudsman at or you can call Your privacy Your personal information is protected by law. We cannot look at, use or disclose any personal information we have about you unless it is allowed under the Privacy Act 1988 and the confidentiality provisions in the laws that Centrelink administers. If you have a question about privacy, confidentiality, access or disclosure of information, ask to be put in touch with the Centrelink privacy officer in your area. If you think that Centrelink has breached your privacy or confidentiality, you can make a complaint to any Centrelink Customer Service Centre or by contacting our Customer Relations Line on Freecall TM or TTY Freecall TM You can also ask for a copy of the factsheet Your Right to Privacy or access it online at You can contact the Offi ce of the Privacy Commissioner if you are still unhappy or if you want to talk to someone other than Centrelink. You can fi nd more information about the Offi ce of the Privacy Commissioner at or by calling or TTY

15 What you can expect from Centrelink You can see documents we hold about you Under Freedom of Information you can make a request to: access documents that Centrelink holds about you amend records containing your personal information that is incomplete, out of date or misleading, and access manuals, rules and Guidelines that Centrelink uses to make decisions about various legislation it administers. A request for access to documents, including your personal records should be in writing. You can use the Centrelink Freedom of Information form I want to access or change documents available online at or at any Customer Service Centre. You can also lodge a freedom of information request by letter, fax or a statement over the counter at any Customer Service Centre. Centrelink Customer Service Advisers at Centrelink Customer Service Centres can provide you with a range of documents that contain your personal information without the need for a written request, such as forms and documents that you have supplied to Centrelink. Centrelink manuals and instructions are generally available under the Freedom of Information Act without a written request. 15

16 How to contact us By phone About to retire or in retirement Needing help after someone has died Are you ill, injured or do you have a disability Caring for someone Looking for work (21 and over) Are you a farmer, self-employed or rural Australian Needing help in a crisis Recently moved to Australia Parent or guardian Family Assistance Offi ce Studying or training Looking for work (under 21) Youth Allowance Austudy Pensioner Education Supplement ABSTUDY Assistance for Isolated Children Australian Government Services Fraud Tip-off Line BasicsCard Balance Check Freecall Centrelink Business Hotline Centrelink International Services For information about claiming a payment from a country other than Australia and about claiming or receiving an Australian payment while outside Australia 16 Customer Relations Freecall Suggestions, complaints or compliments

17 What you can expect from Centrelink Drought Assistance Financial Information Service Financial Information Service seminar bookings Foreign Income Exchange Line Freecall If you get income from a country other than Australia and want to know the exchange rate that has been applied to that income by Centrelink. Indigenous Call Centre Income Management Line Murray-Darling Basin Assistance and Referral Line Freecall Payments for Australian Apprentices To speak to Centrelink in a language other than English TTY* Customer Relations Freecall TTY* Enquiries Freecall *TTY is only for people who are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment. A TTY phone is required to use this service. Note: calls from your home phone to Centrelink 13 numbers from anywhere in Australia are charged at a fi xed rate. That rate may vary from the price of a local call and may also vary between telephone service providers. Calls to 1800 numbers from your home phone are free. Calls from public and mobile phones may be timed and charged at a higher rate. 17

18 Some tips when calling Stay on the line try not to hang up and redial, you may wait longer Have your details ready it helps if you have your reference number and any letter you want to talk about with you when you call Have a pen and paper ready to take notes We will not give you details about other people, even family members, unless you have written permission or they are with you when you call. In person When you visit a Centrelink Customer Service Centre you will be referred to an appropriate Customer Service Adviser. Appointments can also be arranged. If you live in a rural or remote area, Centrelink has an extensive network of Agents and Access Points that may also be able to assist you. For more information call or ask at a Centrelink Customer Service Centre. In writing Our contact address is on every letter we send you, or refer to the White Pages for the address of your nearest offi ce. 18

19 What you can expect from Centrelink Centrelink self service A growing number of our services are available online and over the phone. Centrelink self service is a quick and convenient way to report, update or view your personal details without having to speak to a Centrelink Customer Service Adviser or visit a Centrelink Customer Service Centre. You need to register to access these services. There are several ways you can do this: online go to and select Register for Online Services under the Logon button. You can register for both the Online and Phone Services using the online registration phone call to register for the Phone Service call your regular 13 or 1800 number, or in person at a Centrelink Customer Service Centre. We place great emphasis on maintaining and enhancing the privacy and security of your personal information. When you register, you will need to answer a few questions about yourself and your Centrelink record if you have one. It will be helpful if you have your Customer Reference Number (CRN) and proof of identity documents, including those you have already provided to Centrelink. Secret questions and answers are used to help verify who you are. You will be required to provide fi ve secret questions and answers when you register for the online or phone service. Secret questions and answers are used to increase protection over your personal and sensitive information. You will need to correctly answer a secret question when you log on and if you need to reset your password. 19

20 For terms and conditions regarding the use of Centrelink self service, please refer to Conditions of use in the Online Services section at Online Services are secure, convenient and protect your privacy. Some of the options that make it easier for you to do business with us: check your past and next expected Centrelink payments apply for an Advance Payment print an income statement, rent certifi cate, application for fortnightly payment or online mail update contact details, bank account details and study intentions check appointment details and reporting dates, and apply and claim for Age Pension, student payments and family assistance payments. Phone Self Service provides you with a convenient way to do some of your Centrelink business: call to access a range of phone services call (13 EARN) to report fortnightly employment income (if eligible). For more information about reporting requirements visit Nominee access to Online Services gives nominees the choice to do Centrelink business on behalf of a customer they are nominated for, using Online Services. 20

21 What you can expect from Centrelink Secure Online Mail gives you the choice to view some letters from Centrelink online rather than having them sent to your postal address. Electronic Message Reminder is a free personalised reminder service that sends a text message or to remind you about appointments and lodgement dates. For more information about Centrelink self service visit How to find out more about other relevant Centrelink publications You can download other publications from the Centrelink website at follow the Publications link or you can ask for a copy at your local Centrelink offi ce. Translated versions of the Customer Service Charter and a range of products in languages other than English can also be found on the Centrelink website. Follow the we speak your language link. 21

22 Help in other languages If you need an interpreter or translation of documents for Centrelink business, we can arrange this for you free of charge. To speak to us in a language other than English, call or visit a Centrelink Customer Service Centre and ask for an interpreter. For information in languages other than English visit and select We speak your language. For further information The information contained in this publication is intended as a guide only. You should consult a member of Centrelink s staff or an agent duly authorised by Centrelink to provide you with further information about the material in this publication. This document was published in August 2006 and last updated in March

23 What you can expect from Centrelink Languages other than English 23

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