Despite the one-size-fits-all approach by Centrelink, Sean finds the huge variety of forms to be filled in to receive any benefit just denies the principle. For example:
Sean finds Centrelink officers tend to be city-centric. They are not skilled in the vagaries of the weather or the variety of financial structures in many small businesses and therefore are likely to refuse help if one small piece of information is not forthcoming at the exact moment it is requested.
The RFCS employs 12 counsellors across WA and during the past 12 months – which has been especially tough for WA farming businesses both on land and in rural towns – these counsellors have spent time with 450 people.
Sean’s concern is that because the government likes things in nice neat controllable packages, these services will be cut or severely curtailed, on the pretext that Centrelink can do the job. He argues:
“While Centrelink does employ some counsellors, this service is limited to 5 visits – and there is no immediate response in a crisis – as would be the case of the RFCS counsellors.
The Centrelink people will not be able to identify with the specific problems of rural people – unlike these specialised people who have among the staff marine scientists, agricultural specialists, family counsellors and accountants – all drawing on each other for expertise in different activities. Also these specialised individuals have a network of experts throughout the state that they can call upon to assist as conplicated issues arise.
As one such counsellor pointed out – their job involves such things as reviewing the whole business- finding out where the savings can be made, what dreams need to be put on hold, what restructuring can be done, what are the strengths and weaknesses in the business – but also in the relationships of the partners in that business. Together with the families they will discuss how the present crisis may impact on the education of the children, relationships with the banks and the community at large and personal relationships with family members.
For those of us who have dealt with Centrelink over the years – even to simply apply for Child endowment, we can sympathise with those who, already under great stress and not sure of their next move, must attempt to find complicated and often irrelevant material for an organisation that has become not only unwieldy but also arrogant in their ignorance of the issues facing many people..
I have always had great sympathy for those in our community who have language difficulties or who are not as literate as I, who when faced with Centrelink forms throw up their hands in horror and say ‘ forget it, it’s too hard’..”
Maybe Centrelink management needs to read about ‘Leadership in an Age of Complexity. From Hero to Host: Walk Out Walk On’.