Wollongong Human Services staff to help in flood recovery

Minister for Human Services Brendan O’Connor, Member for Cunningham Sharon Bird and Member for Throsby Stephen Jones have today thanked Wollongong staff from the Federal Department of Human Services for assisting with the recovery effort from the devastating floods in New South Wales and Queensland.

Mr O’Connor said a dedicated team of 15 staff has been working since Monday 6 February to process paper-based claims for the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment.

“While improvements in processing mean the majority of claims can now be finalised almost immediately, the Wollongong processing team has been tasked with assessing many of the online and paper-based claims for the New South Wales floods, including the more complex claims requiring additional information,” Mr O’Connor said.

Ms Bird said the Wollongong processing teams are highly experienced in emergency assistance claims.

“Around 12 months ago, these staff were processing claims for the Queensland,New South Wales and Victorian floods, supporting Australians affected by some of the worst flooding we’ve seen in recent times,” Ms Bird said.

“Twelve months on, this expertise has again come to the fore.”

Mr Jones said the Wollongong processing teams are critical in ensuring payments reach those who urgently need them.

“Early last week when the Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment was activated, the team was involved in assessing paper claims and complex claims for both the New South Wales and Queensland floods,” Mr Jones said.

“The activation of an additional processing team in Victoria has since allowed the team to focus its attention on claims relating to the New South Wales floods.”

Mr O’Connor said other staff and facilities have been mobilised around the country to assist in what’s become a national recovery effort.

“Staff from the Department’s emergency reserve have been activated and sent to communities to provide assistance with claiming, in some cases reaching their destination via Blackhawk helicopters where roads have been impassable,” Mr O’Connor said.

“A number of the Department’s call centres around the country are handling queries and payment claims, and the Australian Government mobile offices have been redeployed from Victoria to western Queensland to help residents in remote communities.

“These efforts have all contributed greatly to getting money to where it’s needed as quickly as possible; as of midnight on 13 February, with more than 13,800 claims were granted for the Queensland and New South Wales floods, totalling over $16.1 million, since Monday 6 February.”