Although it is still early days for the government’s massive overhaul of Centrelink’s welfare payment systems, the project is already delivering dividends, according to human services minister Alan Tudge.
The minister said in a statement that initial outcomes from stage 1 of the Welfare Payment Infrastructure Transformation Program (WPIT) include cutting the average processing time of Youth Allowance and Austudy claims from nine weeks to under five weeks.
The minister said that changes undertaken as part of WPIT have seen claims on hand slashed from 80,000 to 35,000 by rejecting claims earlier due to incompleteness or not not meeting basic eligibility criteria.
A statement issued by Tudge said that in the past, about 40 per cent of Austudy and Youth Allowance claims were rejected on these grounds, but the claims needed to be fully assessed before rejection.
Tudge has been under fire recently over Centrelink’s data-matching program, which is intended to claw back welfare overpayments but whose accuracy and impact on welfare recipients has been condemned. That program is now subject to scrutiny by a Senate inquiry.
At the heart of the WPIT program is the replacement of Centrelink’s aging, mainframe-based welfare payments system, which dates back to the ’80s.
The program is one of the largest welfare ICT transformations in the world, according to the Department of Human Sservices, with a total cost is expected to be in the region of $1 billion.
The government in August identified SAP as the preferred core software vendor for WPIT.
“WPIT is the most significant transformation to the way we process and distribute welfare payments in 30 years,” Tudge said in a statement. “It is pleasing to see these tangible results, saving time and money.
“Over the years ahead, every part of the welfare payment system will be upgraded to make it easier for everyday Australians and cheaper for the government,” the minister said.