A post I just found, which I wrote in 2013

I found this post, written in 2013. No doubt that these days, they would not allow you to just get a letter from the agent. What have we done to our bureaucracy?

Department of Human Services – Public Housing 20.07.2013

People who are relatively comfortable (ie own their own home, have jobs etc) often don’t realise how much things go wrong for poor people or people disadvantaged in other ways.

You hear stories about Poor Unfortunate Individual going from mishap to mishap and assume that the individual is responsible for at least some of it. But I am sorry to report that in those areas of law and bureaucracy that are unpopular and unglamorous, such as fines, child services, aged care and so on, errors in processes and procedures germinate and multiply, spreading and causing more forms to be filled out and more people to process them, until the issue comes to rest in the inbox of the one person who happens to have the energy and courage to deal with it at that moment in time.

There’s nobody in South Yarra or Elizabeth Bay lobbying their local member to have a systemic review, or to contract a firm to overhaul a department’s database, or take leadership of training and recruitment. That kind of attention gets turned on education or health or transport, but not the poor-cousin-departments.

I went to the Department’s office in Ringwood yesterday to drop off an application for a bond loan. If you are poor, the Department will lend you the money for your bond.

As with many services catering to poor people, the department is staffed by under-paid but kind staff who work too hard and aren’t paid danger money for the stress.

Probably 30% of the stress is caused by unworkable policies and processes. Nobody has complained about it to me; this is from observation.

Here is a perfect example of the quality of processes and policies you get in departments that deal with poor people constantly. You can get a bond loan for a residential tenancy, but only one at a time. You must have paid back the first bond loan before you take out the second bond loan. Yet the residential tenancies system relies on overlapping leases – and certainly overlapping bonds – to work. So, to accommodate this, staff have developed a system of asking people to provide a letter from their current agent stating that they are unlikely to be making a claim on the bond. This works creakily in practice, but is even worse if the reason the person is leaving is the poor behaviour of the property manager.


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