Federal human service agency Centrelink was forced to close customer service centres in Queensland and northern New South Wales today, due to the flooding that has devastated the state.
Centrelink offices in Cherbourg, Dalby, Deception Bay, Fortitude Valley, Goodna, Inala, Ipswich, Maclean, Nundah, South Brisbane, Stones Corner and Toowong were all forced to shut their doors.
The closures have come at a time when the Minister for Human Services, Tanya Plibersek said Centrelink was processing claims for disaster assistance after a surge in the number of calls to the Federal Government’s emergency hotline.
Ms Plibersek said the Australian Government Mobile Office had also been diverted to Toowoomba, to provide on-the-spot assistance to families and businesses in need.
“On Wednesday more than 15,000 calls were made to the Australian Government’s Emergency Assistance Hotline, up from 8,000 the previous day,” she said.
Ms Plibersek said in order to make claiming as quick and easy as possible for flood-affected families, around 400 Centrelink staff were processing claims each day.
Up to 1200 call centre workers at a time were taking thousands of calls for assistance from flood victims.
Ms Plibersek said the number of approved claims for the Australian Government’s Disaster Recovery Payment (AGDRP) had spiked overnight to more than 20,000, bringing the amount paid to flood victims to almost $26 million. The previous day it was 14,000 approved claims and $18 million paid to victims.
“The Mobile Office had been diverted to the evacuation centre at Toowoomba Grammar School, where it will be operational from today,” Ms Plibersek said.
The Mobile Office was staffed with Centrelink customer service advisers, Medicare staff and social workers, to assist flood ravaged residents a wide range of services.
Disaster assistance being made available to flood victims included the AGDRP, the newly activated Disaster Income Recovery Subsidy and the joint Commonwealth/Queensland Government payments being made under the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements.
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