CENTRELINK and Medicare services look set to continue in Mornington with a scaled down privately-run service set to begin next month.
The about-face follows widespread community discontent at a decision by federal government services minister Stuart Robert to shut the two Main Street offices on 23 March. (“Centrelink shutdown” The News 11/2/20).
The mayor Cr Sam Hearn described that decision as a “real kick in the guts” and a “terrible outcome for the community in terms of the challenges it creates making it really hard on families who rely of those services”.
The new agency, to run over 15 hours three days a week, is expected to “complement” existing services run out of Rosebud and Frankston offices.
The federal government has called for Expressions of Interest for the service which will allow customers to “access Centrelink, Medicare and other Australian Government services within Mornington”.
Tenders, to close Tuesday 10 March, call for an agency which could provide a face-to-face information service and free self-help facilities, including an internet enabled computer, Wi-Fi, telephone and scanner/photocopier/printer to “help people do their business with us”.
“We’ll negotiate a remuneration package with the successful applicant, based on agreed hours of service,” the tender said.
Flinders MP Greg Hunt claimed credit for retaining the Centrelink and Medicare services. “Within five minutes of being informed of the Mornington Centrelink closure I was speaking to [Mr Robert],” Mr Hunt said.
“I’ve listened to the concerns of residents and advocated directly to the minister and his office. Following two weeks of advocacy, I am pleased to say a new agent service can ensure a continuation of Centrelink and Medicare services in Mornington.
“Importantly, I have confirmed that Mornington service centre staff will be retained and continue to serve the community at the Rosebud and Frankston service centres, if they wish to do so.”
Mr Hunt said while clients were “increasingly choosing to use different options, such as internet-based services, to access government support, it is important that those who wish to have a face-to-face interaction [can], as well as assistance [with] training … to access newer opportunities online.”
Mr Hunt said the agent service would “add to an extensive network of around 350 agents across Australia”.
“The service will allow customers to access Centrelink, Medicare and other Australian Government services within Mornington.”
Mr Hunt urged “local groups who are interested in providing these services to apply to operate this service”.
The existing Frankston, Rosebud and Hastings service centres will remain open Monday to Friday, 8.30am-4.30pm.