Govt launches emergency payment tech

New technology that enables almost immediate delivery of emergency payments to victims of natural disasters has been unveiled in Melbourne.

New technology that enables almost immediate delivery of emergency payments to victims of natural disasters has been unveiled in Melbourne.

(Flood — Road Closed image by
Morien Jones, CC2.0)

The new IT system, tested during last summer's Queensland floods, will mean that the Federal Government can deliver emergency payments from almost any location.

Human Services Minister Brendan O'Connor said that the new system will mean immediate relief for those who are deemed eligible.

It comes on the back of a year in which floods devastated parts of Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia.

"This country deals with floods and cyclones and bushfires every year, and therefore it's critical that we have a mobile response," O'Connor told reporters in Melbourne.

"This technology will ensure that wherever a disaster occurs across this huge country, that we're able to respond quicker than ever before."

The number of mobile officers has been doubled to 30, and the new technology will be available this summer in the event of major emergencies, O'Connor said.

The 30 units, with which officers can operate the Point of Presence (POP) IT system, can run off a car battery in areas where mains power is unavailable.

In some cases, the easily transportable system, which runs using 3G broadband, satellite or a fixed phone line, can be set up within hours.

Last year, government department call centres took more than 750,000 queries and phone claims, and paid a record of almost $1 billion to people in emergency payments.

O'Connor said it is critical that the payments are delivered fast.

"In many cases, people are left homeless, they are left without clothes, without food, without their own resources, and they need to be provided payments as quickly as possible," he said.

O'Connor said that the system is one of several improvements made following last summer's natural disasters.

The government also plans to make further improvements to the POP IT system to allow claims to be tracked in close to real time.

The human services minister said that staff have been working on improving the system since the string of disasters at the beginning of 2011.

"During this time, the government identified areas for potential improvement, and, over the winter months, it's been refining procedures around claiming and claim processing, field technology and strengthening relationships with other federal, state and local agencies," O'Connor said.

More than 5000 government staff are on standby to help out at short notice in the event of a natural disaster.


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