Contributed from Victoria
A visit to the local Centrelink office turned out to be an ordeal. Not that I am any different from anyone else lined up inside and outside on the footpath, waiting for something to happen, for what felt for ever.
Many had come, they said, after having spent a lot of time trying to call through or axcess the system online. Frustrated by the lack of response, they came to see if they could do better in person.
No such thing. More waiting and more nothing happening. Then the message comes. People are advised to go home try to call in or go inline. no one likes being given a merry-go-round like this. It’s insulting, and devalues those on the receiving end.
No wonder there are signs about not being aggressive to staff and security officers in uniform about. Treating people badly is bound to cause friction. Not that it’s the staff’s fault in most cases. They are also locked into the system.
This is Centrelink. It’s not just that being flooded by those laid off over the Corona virus outbreak is making the situation hard to cope with. This how the system operates.
It is the treatment handed out to those who have been in the system before this outbreak. it has been here for a long time. Now that the same is being applied to many others should, should be an eye opener for those who had never had to approach Centrelink before, and will hopefully help to break down the bludger stereotype.
Centrelink is purposely built to punish, humiliate and discourage.
Now that at least a million more people are thrown its way, Centrelink is not capable of dealing with it. Only a thorough reorganisation and refitting its purpose can change this.
At least the pointless system of Mutual Obligation has gone for now. This is s really a one-sided ritual to dance through hoops, and make it look like your looking for a job, rather being in a process that actually helps to get one. Centrelink’s only real obligation here, is its right to demand money and cut payments if the dance is imperfect, and there is no right of appeal.
The two-week delay, which in reality may be longer, has temporarily gone as well. This is an improvement. But it does not necessarily mean quick processing and payment.
It will take more to get rid of the assumption that everyone going to Centrelink is a cheat, liar and shirker. While this assumption continues, people will still be treated badly.
Applying the system of punishing and humiliating to a much larger portion of the Australian community is very risky for the government. There is little doubt that this has been a key factor in the measure of softening we have seen. But it may not be enough to overcome the deficiencies and building criticism. The government and Centrelink need to look and be more caring.
A lot of people starting to get angry. The corona virus has shaken their sense of security. They have now been thrown into unemployment. A Centrelink system that fails to meet the basic needs to provide dignity and for a tolerable standard of living difficult times, could ignite this anger into something more potent.