The government’s MyGov system has failed, causing others to disregard social distancing laws while they face the Centrelink storefronts to decide if they apply for income assistance.
The federal government’s electronic service platform MyGov crashed on Monday morning, with several Australians seeking to decide if they qualified for assistance under the Centrelink nation scheme.
The government is making AU$189 billion accessible to “win Australians at work and company” while the nation battles the global epidemic of COVID-19 coronavirus.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison declared on Sunday that all non-essential companies would be suspended from midday on Monday, leaving millions without jobs.
An additional AU$14.1 billion would be used to provide staff and households with coronavirus supplements.
Morrison stated that qualifications for income support benefits will be immediately enhanced and that the government will create a separate, time-limited coronavirus subsidy to be charged at the cost of AU$550 a fortnight.
This would be charged to the current and potential beneficiaries of the JobSeeker Grant, Youth Allowance Jobseeker, Childcare Grant, Farm House Allowance and Special Gain.
“The coronavirus supplement will be paid for the next six months,” Morrison said. “Eligible income support recipients will receive the full amount of the AU$550 coronavirus supplement on top of their payment each fortnight.”
Since introducing a stimulus grant of AU$750 earlier this month for qualifying families, an extra AU$750 for social security and military income assistance applicants and qualified concession card holders would now be available.
However, those who obtain an income tax allowance who are entitled to accept a coronavirus substitute do not earn an AU$750.
“To ensure timely access to payments, new applicants are encouraged to claim through on-line and mobile channels,” Centrelink’s fact sheet [PDF] details.
“If applicants do not have internet access, they can claim over the phone.”
Previously, prospective Centrelink claimants had to visit the storefront to check their identities.
Across the country, there are lines around the block in the Centrelink stores, because first-time social security claimants are often advised, according to the Labor Statement, that they will only receive a Customer Reference Number by coming to the shop in person.
“From April 2020, Services Australia will allow new applicants to call to verify their identity to reduce the need to visit a Services Australia office,” the fact sheet continues.
Nonetheless, a MyGov account is needed to assert online.
Services Australia, the agency responsible for implementing the Centrelink program and its latest AU$4 billion plan, will gain up to 5,000 additional workers to deal with the new initiatives.
“Many families, workers and business owners who have never accessed social security before are forced by the financial effects of the coronavirus,” Current party leader and Shadow Minister for Public Services Bill Shorten and Minister for Families and Social Security Linda Burney released a joint announcement.
“People should not have to wait weeks to access these vital payments. But at this hour of need Australians are having to grapple with inadequate service, online glitches, and a lack of planning to deal with demand at Centrelink shopfronts.”
Shorten, and Burney found myGov’s present strain “entirely foreseeable.”
“Government Services Minister Stuart Robert must do better,” the pair said. “He must ensure Centrelink services — online and in person — are working now when Australians need them most.”
In a Facebook message, Services Australia told people not to enter storefronts and launch their cases electronically or by phone.
“Please consider the health and safety of our customers and staff and do not visit our service centres unless there’s a critical need for you to be there,” it wrote.
MyGov has been marketed as a safe way to access government resources with one username and one password.
Currently, users can access Australian JobSearch, Australian Taxation Office (ATO), Centrelink, Child Welfare, Health Apps Platform, Department of Veterans Affairs, HousingVic Electronic Facilities, Medicare, My Aged Care, National Disabilities Protection System, National Remedy Program, Victoria State Revenue Office, and My Health Record facilities to myGov.
Services Australia has also reported that there is a “mature incident management mechanism” to cope with outages, such as those suffered by myGov last year.
Despite myGov down on 12, 13, and 20 July 2019, the Ministry was questioned during the October Senate Estimates round on the root causes of the outages.
“There was a significant increase in user demand on myGov services in July 2019, above forecasted demand predicted for the end of the financial year period,” it wrote in response to questions on notice published in December.
“This led to some performance issues with the myGov services.”
This added that it acted immediately to improve infrastructure after the accidents were detected.
“The department has a mature Incident Management Process in place that encompasses the restoration, review, and implementation of recommendations, ensuring incidents are not replicated,” it continued.
The specifics of particular accidents, said Services Australia, remain “confidential to maintain the operational security of our systems”.
The Department has asserted exemption from releasing important event summary information on the three outages.