The number of older Australians waiting to have an age pension application processed is falling, the human services minister says, after dozens of extra staff were deployed to grapple with a backlog.
Michael Keenan has made the comment after reports long delays in the processing of applications have prompted some older people to cut back on essential living expenses including groceries.
The minister said the federal government became aware of an increase in applications for the pension in July and instructed the Department of Human Services to do something about it.
The department put on an extra 100 staff to help bring a backlog under control.
“I’m very pleased to say that this has been successful,” Mr Keenan told reporters on the Gold Coast on Monday.
“We’re now working through the backlog to make sure that people’s pension applications are processed as quickly as possible.”
Mr Keenan has urged people to apply for the pension 13 weeks before they finish work to ensure it’s there when they need it.
But he said more staff will be arranged to get the backlog down if required or to make the process of applying more straightforward.
“We’ll continue to put the resources that are required,” he said.
Labor has criticised the coalition for not expecting the spike in age pension applicants, given the demographic data available to them.
“Because of this stuff up, over 5000 older Australians are waiting longer than the 49-day age pension processing standard the government set for itself,” opposition spokesman Ed Husic said.