The federal government is trying to wean welfare recipients off its over-stretched telephone services with a new-look website.
Callers trying to contact Centrelink were met with busy signals more than 42 million times between July 1 and April 30.
The figure – which breaks down to almost 140,000 blocked calls per day – has almost doubled in two years.
For those who do get through, the welfare agency’s average call wait time is about 15 minutes, with some groups of people kept on hold significantly longer.
The human services department has spent more than six months redesigning its website to make it easier and faster for people to find information.
Meanwhile, Centrelink is hiring an extra 250 phone operators to chip away at the mountain of missed calls and reduce call wait times.
Human Services Minister Alan Tudge is hopeful the revamped website – rebuilt with help from the Plain English Foundation – reduces demand on call and service centres.
“Many people call Centrelink for basic information that is available online,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Simple and user-friendly online information will help them find this info online next time and the positive responses we’re receiving through early testing is very encouraging.”
Punters will be able to try out the new design and provide feedback before the website goes live in coming months.
Eugenia Grammatikakis, from the Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia, is among those keeping a close eye on the website rollout.
“Anything done to simplify the process of using an online channel to access government services is welcome,” she told AAP.
But many of society’s most vulnerable – including older Australians and those for whom English is not their first language – cannot access online services.
“It is critical that these vulnerable Australians can access essential services in person or by telephone,” Ms Grammatikakis said.