Federal Government departments have apologised for poor performance in handling some of the botched dairy applications for Farm Household Assistance.
The departments and the Federal Government have come under criticism for lengthy delays, lost applications and confusing paperwork.
As a result of the complaints, Senator Bridget McKenzie organised four roundtable public meetings in Victoria (including Congupna) to consult with farmers on the issues.
The Department of Human Services has apologised to customers for delays and failing to reach expectations.
‘‘Both DHS and the department committed to undertake a review of the FHA and generic social security forms that FHA applicants are required to complete to wherever possible remove duplication, as well as redundant or non-essential questions,’’ the department response said in a report.
The report noted the average time for applications to be processed should be 28 days for simple applications and 42 days for complex applications.
The report contained no reference to the actual time taken for applications.
At Congupna several people complained that it had taken months to get their applications dealt with.
The DHS report on the roundtable meetings noted that its staff engaged with more than 80 customers and intensive support was given to 23 customers. Follow-up calls were also made to farmers who attended the sessions.
However, the seven-page report made no mention of complaints that staff had lost sensitive material and asked applicants to re-send or attend the office to provide material twice.
UDV president Adam Jenkins, who attended two of the sessions, told Country News he was aware of some applications that had taken close to six months.
He said the applications should be treated with similar urgency to benefits for fire, flood and other disasters.
‘‘They just seem to get caught up in the Centrelink social welfare system.
‘‘There needs to be a mechanism to speed up the system.’’
He said he was not surprised to hear the complaints at the session because he had already heard feedback about the problems, including the disappearance of some documents.
Asked if the investigations and report had gone far enough, Mr Jenkins said ‘‘time will tell’’, as there were still applications being processed.
Mr Jenkins welcomed changes to the government’s package that had been introduced to speed up the application processing time and the way farm assets were dealt with.