Saturday, 7 December 2013

The wrath of the public servant?

'Many welfare benefit claimants are treated appallingly… by public servants'.

This is something I have been told time and time again, and it's also something I have witnessed, a number of times.

Increasingly, those who are reliant on state benefits, are being denied the right to choice, the right to take control of their lives denied the right.. to agency.
Grown adults, treated as children, forced to occupy a position of an underclass, by those (who we may hope) should really know better.
Yet, despite such treatment, they are expected to feel good about their lives, actively and confidently pursue employment, get involved in their communities, and basically, pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get on.
They are often denied opportunities of their choosing, and knowledge is filtered to the extent that they have little awareness of what options are truly available to them outside of what they are presented with.
Many are caught in a political bureaucratic maze, with no map.

Let me tell you a story

I spoke to a man recently who had an appointment with a public servant at 12.30. He told me, that at 12.30 he sat opposite the lady in question. She ignored him until 1.30, until.. he stood up. He was then asked to account for his job seeking time. I asked him if she knew who he was, and he said yes.
So… why did she keep him waiting an hour with no explanation and no apology?
Because she could.
Why did he not contest it, get angry and ask why on god’s green earth he was being ignored and kept waiting?
Because he couldn't
He couldn't because he knew, or at least his fear was, that should he annoy or irritate her (little arse dawna be objective) in any way. She could, suspend his benefits.

His fear of the knowledge that she could make his difficult life, that much more difficult, with serious ramifications, reduced him from a man.. to a boy.
To be fair, it is not every person in receipt of benefits that is treated this way.
The working poor, who receive in work benefits, are perhaps spared the wrath of the public servant, and tend to get by without feeling as though they are being stripped of their humanity.

So the issue appears to be one of power.
There is no doubt that many systems are simply not worth the paper they are written on. There’s no doubt that many ‘jobs worth bureaucrats’ are also a problem.
Public servants are there to serve the public, and really shouldn’t forget that.
Many are aware of that, and as a result are doing a great job no doubt.

But there’s something about being ( or even believing one is ) in a position of power and authority over the life of another, that can bring out the absolute worst in a person

There’s no doubt that the disrespectful treatment of welfare claimants needs to stop.
Get back to seeing a person.. and not a political ideology.

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