The Human Services portfolio supports self-sufficiency for individuals and families through access to personalised assistance and co-ordinated delivery of payments and services, government health and other information services.
The portfolio continues to co-locate Medicare, Centrelink, Child Support and other services in a number of shopfronts across Australia to extend the range of services available in each place.
People living in regional, rural and remote areas can access government services through the Department of Human Services (DHS) Service Centres (including Remote Service Centres), Agents and Access Points and visiting services such as Remote Servicing Teams and mobile offices.
Two mobile offices travel to rural and remote communities to provide access to services for people where there is no permanent service delivery presence. Mobile offices travel to communities on pre-determined itineraries and provide tailored services to meet specific needs of each community. Services provided include Centrelink and Medicare services and also specialist services such as those provided by Australian Hearing and the Child Support program. Mobile offices also respond to natural disasters to areas such as the 2012 floods in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
The portfolio also provides customers with access via nationally networked call centres which include specific services for rural and Indigenous customers. Self Service (phone and online) is also available to customers to conveniently claim a payment or concession, update personal details and advise changes in circumstance.
Mobile and Outreach services
The Mobile and Outreach services provide information and services for up to 500,000 people who live in rural, regional and remote locations and who are more than 50 kilometres from a DHS Service Centre. These mobile services enable the Department to reach people in locations near where they live. Outreach servicing of rural and regional Australia has provided unique opportunities for the Government to work closely with hard to reach and disadvantaged people, in particular customers whose needs are not met via the phone or online channels for reasons including language, culture and physical abilities.
Mobile offices delivered essential services to people during the 2012 New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland floods and are expected to travel a combined total of 60,000 kilometres to 350 regional communities in 2012‑13.
The Government continues to co-locate services across Australia to create one-stop shops. These service centres deliver Medicare and Centrelink services in varying forms, with some also offering Child Support services. This has also provided a platform for the co-location of other Commonwealth, State and Territory agencies, such as the Australian Taxation Office and State housing agencies. The co-location program has increased the number of places people in regional Australia can access the Department's and other government services. As of 31 March 2012 the number of places Medicare services are available has increased from 240 to 384, while the number of places Centrelink services are available has increased from 313 to 372. Additionally, an increase in the number of places providing a range of services from one service centre means that travel to a number of centres to access different services will not be necessary for many people.
Local Connections to Work
Local Connections to Work is a sustainable place-based approach from which disadvantaged job seekers and their families can benefit from better access to existing high quality support services. The initiative involves local service providers delivering their services on a rostered basis from a DHS Service Centre, helping job seekers get the services they need and building stronger relationships between community services at the local level.
There are currently nine sites where this program is being delivered to job seekers, four of which are in regional areas. A further five sites will be implemented between April and June 2012, three of which will be in regional areas. The initiative has serviced over 5,500 disadvantaged customers. Of these, over 1,400 customers have had a job placement and over 1,000 have had an education or training placement.
Case Coordination is designed to assist customers to identify their needs, goals and aspirations and to establish a plan of action that can involve linking them to a range of internal and external services. The initiative has been implemented in 19 locations in 2011‑12, several of which are located in regional communities. The number of sites will increase to 34 locations in 2012‑13 and 44 locations in 2013‑14.
The outcome of the trials will be used to better support people living in regional communities connect to the appropriate services and supports in their communities and achieve improved levels of social and economic participation.
The Government continued to engage with regional and remote communities, including Indigenous communities in these areas, through extensive co-design activity during 2012‑13 aimed at enhancing current service offers and delivery methods. These co-design approaches ensure regional and remote perspectives are adequately represented during relevant customer research activity. During 2012‑13, the Government will also continue to design and trial more effective service offers that ensure customers receive information support and assistance that meets their needs.
Community Engagement Prototype Activity
As part of the broader service delivery reform initiative, the Government in partnership with the Municipal Association of Victoria tested new ways of engaging and collaborating with the community and stakeholders. The Co-design Community Engagement Prototype Activity was trialled across regional and urban sites in Victoria and aimed to provide the Government with an opportunity to better understand and work with communities through identifying local solutions for local issues. The information gained gave great insight into the way small communities operate, and intelligence collected during this activity will be adapted to future enhancements to service delivery in regional, remote and Indigenous communities.
Single portfolio website and telephone number
Customers in regional, remote and Indigenous communities are already benefiting from enhancements made to the online channel and one phone number. The single portfolio website and telephone number (SPTN) means that people in rural and regional Australia only have to access a single point for information and assistance. The online capability will continue to undergo enhancement during 2012‑13, allowing customers to undertake transactions in a secure online environment. In addition, there will be further trials of the website that aim to facilitate increased interactive functionality such as a Virtual Concierge, Click-to-Chat and advanced search capabilities. Complemented by the rollout of the NBN, the website will be able to provide more intuitive, tailored and responsive results to customers, regardless of their location.
In 2011, the SPTN was expanded to include Emergency Enhancement capability which provides the Government with the capacity to quickly configure and activate high quality service delivery to meet the needs of communities during an emergency. This capability was activated in early 2012 during flood events in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, ensuring affected customers in regional and remote areas were equipped with vital information and support.
National Broadband Network
The Government, through a collaborative effort, will pilot an initiative—Digital Productivity — leveraging the NBN infrastructure—to enhance service delivery through video conferencing. The pilot aims to increase equitable access to specialist face-to-face services via high-definition videoconferencing, for people in regional Australia who connect to the NBN from their residential homes, or connect to the NBN via a regional video access point. A budget of $6.2 million has been allocated to the Department for the pilot over the four financial years to 2014-15. The pilot will be designed collaboratively with citizens, service providers and other third party organisations such as community, education and healthcare providers.
Electronic Claiming — claiming Medicare benefits online
Electronic claiming options reflect the Government's commitment to offer choices based on community needs. These options make it convenient for customers to lodge claims for Medicare Benefits because they do not need to travel to a DHS Service Centre. This is done through four electronic claiming channels:
- Medicare Online allows practices to lodge Medicare claims via the internet;
- Medicare Easyclaim allows practices to lodge claims using a secure EFTPOS network provided by institutions specifically accredited by Medicare;
- ECLIPSE is an electronic system that can be used for claiming services provided in hospitals; and
- claiming Medicare benefits online enables customers to claim the most common GP consultations over the internet through australia.gov.au.
The Government is actively working with medical practitioners, software vendors, financial institutions, health insurers and members of the public to increase the availability and use of electronic claiming of Medicare benefits.
Services accessed by Health Professionals
The Health Professional Online Services (HPOS) is a service offered by the Government which provides access to the online services for health professionals through a single entry point.
HPOS also provides access to information on eligibility for Medicare services and information necessary for the processing and payment of claims.
Early Release of Superannuation Benefits on compassionate grounds program
The Early Release of Superannuation Benefits on compassionate grounds program supports many members of the Australian public in obtaining an early release of superannuation benefits due to financial difficulties that fall within specified compassionate grounds under law. The compassionate grounds support an early release to eligible Australians, including eligible people who require transport to medical treatments for life threatening illnesses, acute or chronic pain or acute or chronic mental illnesses. In a number of circumstances these early releases are for families and individuals who are required to travel long distances from regional areas for treatment. The compassionate grounds also support early releases for mortgage assistance, medical treatment and modifications to a home or car to accommodate a disability and Funeral and Palliative care.
The Early Release of Superannuation Benefits program works closely with social workers in supporting customers in regional areas who are in difficulty, as well as developing relationships with regional Financial Counsellor Associations and networks which further support regional areas in applying and potentially obtaining a release where a member of the public is eligible.
Small Business Superannuation Clearing House
The Small Business Superannuation Clearing House (the Clearing House) is an optional free government service to help small businesses with less than 20 employees meet their superannuation guarantee obligations and cut red tape. Under superannuation guarantee requirements, small businesses must make compulsory superannuation payments at every quarter. Employers could be faced with having to make payments to multiple superannuation funds, each with their own set of rules or processes for accepting contributions and accompanying information.
The Clearing House simplifies the process into a single, electronic payment for all employees and sends the nominated contributions to the correct superannuation funds—avoiding the need for small business to deal with multiple funds. As at the end of April 2012, over $250.0 million in contributions has been received from small business employers and transmitted to superannuation funds. As an Australia-wide online service the Clearing House supports small business in regional areas to meet their superannuation obligations.
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