Applying for age pension an uphill battle

Less than four in 10 Australians are satisfied with their age pension application process through Centrelink, with many seeking assistance or professional financial advice.

A joint study conducted by National Seniors Australia and Retirement Essentials has shown applying for the age pension is a difficult experience for many senior Australians.

The report, “The Centrelink Experience – From ‘waiting, frustrated, hopeless’ to ‘helpful, friendly, positive”, showed out of the 530 survey respondents who commented on their Centrelink experience, 38.5 per cent were satisfied with their experience, while 42.5 per cent described it negatively and were categorised as dissatisfied.

Retirement Essentials founder and chief executive Paul Rogan said if the survey data reflects the whole community and demographic trends, over 153,000 Australian seniors each year are having negative experiences when applying for the pension.

“Beyond those who are simply frustrated, there are many eligible people who actually give up on accessing their entitlements. And, when the purpose of the age pension is to be a safety net, we need to do more to assist seniors to navigate the complex process and support them.”

Almost all respondents, 95 per cent, were dissatisfied with the Centrelink call centre, while 92 per cent were dissatisfied with the time taken.

A further 88 per cent were dissatisfied with processes and forms.

Most respondents commented they had sought assistance for completing their age pension application, with 82 per cent mentioning they had sought assistance from either the Centrelink Financial Information Service, a financial adviser or planner, friends and family, or Centrelink.

According to the report, financial advisers and not-for-profit organisations already assist in meeting the need for specialist expertise in applications and this market is likely to grow to meet the currently unmet need.

“People reported seeking assistance in unprompted comments when it was salient to their main issues and more would have sought assistance than those who commented,” it said.

“Seeking support, however, did not guarantee a satisfactory experience.”

Due to the inconsistency in the support they received, 61 per cent still described being dissatisfied or ambivalent about their experience.

Retirement Essentials recently launched a website and telephone service to assist seniors in applying for the age pension.

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