Why do bureaucrats torment the needy?
What is it about bureaucracy, particularly in government departments, which turns an apparently normal human being into a tyrant?
This is especially noticeable when the said government department is supposed to be helping those in need to cope with their circumstances.
So often those on the front line of dispensing such help have themselves been in the position of having to ask for it at some time in their lives. You would think this circumstance would make them more tolerant and understanding of their clients but this is not always the case.
Three government agencies immediately spring to mind: WINZ, Housing NZ and ACC. Many of us have had less than optimal experiences with one, or even all, of these departments and have been on the receiving end of comments and actions which belittle us or make us feel as though we have no right to the service we are requesting.
WINZ is a prime example. Many of its front line staff have been beneficiaries themselves but you wouldn’t know it by the attitude shown to those lining up for survival funds.
Let me say here that in the Porirua office, this attitude has markedly changed for the better since my first contact with it in 2001.
Back in those days, I had to leave work to look after my husband who had retired sick. Because neither of us was then 65, we had to go through the mill of asking for help. We were given the distinct impression that we had no right to be asking – after all, we were white middle- class people who had had it easy all our lives, hadn’t we?
It was a humiliating and painful experience, to say the least.
Some years later when I had to go to the office, however, I met a compassionate man who gave me every bit of help I needed without making me feel I was trying to rip the outfit off. The title of tyrant obviously does not fit all officials and is certainly less deserved in our local office these days.
Housing NZ and ACC are both guilty of making arbitrary decisions, then informing the client of these without any prior discussion.
For instance, I know of cases where both of these departments have decided, apparently without checking with anyone, that clients are earning money when they are not and raising rents/levies accordingly, often to the extreme distress of people who are trying desperately to make ends meet.
Really, what right have officials in government departments or agencies to make assumptions about clients without discussion with the relevant party? And what right have they to make the clients feel like trash if they dare to question the decision or stand up for their rights?
In our profit- oriented society, those in need are becoming more and more marginalised and the attitudes of people behind desks in the so-called ‘‘welfare’’ agencies do not help. Where has respect for the individual person gone, I wonder?
This month, we tackle a topic which is of interest to anyone who draws superannuation – namely, the amount of tax taken off it. Those who think superannuitants have it easy need to come along and hear the truth.
Tuesday, July 10, 1.30pm, The Porirua Club, Lodge Place, Porirua. Contact: Helen Griffith Ph 236 0112