Centrelink losing face

THE Byron Bay community is outraged over a plan to restructure the town's Centrelink office, with self-service facilities replacing face-to-face consultations.

The Department of Human Services confirmed the Centrelink office would undergo a refurbishment in coming months that would double the number of self-service computers.

This will replace interview services with Byron Bay Centrelink staff.

Centrelink customers requiring face-to-face consultations will need to travel to the region's other Centrelink hubs in Brunswick Heads, Ballina or Lismore.

Department of Human Services zone leader Brian Small said the self-service system would allow customers to conduct business online or over the phone.

"The refurbishment will provide improved access to services including doubling the number of self-service computers, making more resources available to the increasing number of Byron Bay customers using self-service," he said.

No jobs would be lost as a result.

Byron Bay Community Centre general manager Paul Spooner said the changes were a "real step backwards".

"The demand for assistance is increasing in this area. Cutting access to services is going to be problematic," he said.

Byron Bay youth worker Nicqui Yazdi said transport to other Centrelink offices was going to be a problem.

"That travel will take a lot of money out of people's pockets," she said.

Byron Shire Mayor Jan Barham said a lot of the population would not be comfortable using computers.

"When people are feeling vulnerable, they want someone to talk to face-to-face," she said.

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