Delays in Centrelink processing times – what to do if your payment claim is outstanding for too long

SSRV receives calls every week about delays in Centrelink processing payment claims. Often, the callers are frustrated, worried, and stressed about when a decision is going to be made.

Data recently tabled in Senate Estimates shows that, at 1 May 2024, Centrelink had a backlog of 1,522,706 claims. For the period January to May 2024, Disability Support Pensions claims took an average of 107 days to be processed, Age Pension an average of 84 days and JobSeeker Payment an average of 23 days.

At 1 May 2024, Centrelink had 33,936 DSP claims on hand, and 9,664 of those claims were more than 120 days old.

Awaiting a response on a payment claim can be incredibly stressful, especially for individuals who have no income or are in severe financial hardship.

If you or a client you are supporting are awaiting a response on a Centrelink application, we suggest the following steps. Ultimately, there is no guaranteed way to ensure a quick outcome on a payment claim, but they can help to ensure a payment claim hasn’t been missed or lost, and may assist in obtaining a timely outcome.

1. Follow up your payment claim.

In the first instance, we recommend calling Centrelink or attending their office to speak with an officer about your claim. Ask for the reason for the delay, whether there are any outstanding documents or information which are preventing a decision being made on the claim, and request the claim be finalised as soon as possible.

2. Lodge a complaint with Centrelink.

If Centrelink have not decided upon a claim within 13 weeks, we recommend filing a complaint with Centrelink about the lack of response. This can be done via phone call to 1800 132 468 or online via MyGov or the feedback form. Make clear the resolution you are seeking is a timely decision on the payment application.

3. Contact your local Member of Parliament.

You might consider seeking assistance from your local Member of Parliament. You can find your local MP and their contact details by visiting There is no guarantee that your local MP will be able to resolve your issue, however you can call or write to their office and explain your situation and the outcome you are seeking.

4. Submit an Authorised Review Officer (internal review) request.

You can also consider lodging an internal review with Centrelink. If Centrelink has not made a decision on a claim within 13 weeks, this is considered a ‘deemed refusal’. A deemed refusal can be reviewed by an Authorised Review Officer on internal review. You do not have to lodge an internal review if it has been more than 13 weeks since you lodged the claim, you will likely still receive an outcome on the original claim at some point. However, you may wish to lodge an internal review as an alternative method of pursuing an outcome on the original claim.

5. Lodge a complaint with the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

If lodging a complaint with Centrelink did not resolve your issue, you can lodge a further complaint with the Commonwealth Ombudsman. The Ombudsman may investigate your complaint and make recommendations to resolve the issue.

Disability Support Pension

If you are applying for the Disability Support Pension, we recommend also making an application for JobSeeker Payment in the interim. An application for JobSeeker Payment will be processed faster as there are fewer eligibility requirements. In many cases, this will provide some income whilst the Disability Support Pension claim is being finalised.

Financial Counsellor support

If you are having trouble paying bills and are worried about enforcement action, we recommend speaking with a financial counsellor. A financial counsellor may be able to assist you with negotiating with creditors whilst you await an outcome on your Centrelink claim, and consider any relief grants that may be available to you.

We recommend calling the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007. Their financial counsellors provide free and confidential advice from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday.

Once you receive the decision

The decision you finally receive from Centrelink about your payment claim might not be the outcome you were expecting. You might disagree with the entire decision, or part of the decision. It is important to remember Centrelink decisions can be reviewed – a Centrelink internal review usually needs to be lodged within 13 weeks, except for debts which do not have a time limit.

SSRV is an independent community legal centre; we don’t have access to Centrelink systems. We can, however, talk you through the processes available to resolve your dispute with Centrelink, and give you advice on your rights of review.

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