I wrote this post last night after I had sorted some photos and was still feeling a little sad about work. Not sad in myself, just sad about some of what I see. The kind of sad you feel when you remember how it felt to worry about having enough for the rent or a big bill, constantly pushing money from your next payment around in your head. Sometimes when I am starting to feel all whiny, this job jabs me in the side and reminds me how lucky I am. Despite having had the security and backup of extended family, I can see just how easy it can be to fall from having a home and a life into something entirely different. And some people, because of the circumstances they were born into, or whatever happens later, well, they seem to never have a chance. Leading to lives of struggle and constant interaction with the the government and its agencies. And I remember very well from my time on the other side of the counter how it felt to deal with heartless, thoughtless or just plain incompetent bureaucrats (but maybe that's another whole post).
I'm seeing some shifts in the way we do things at work. A softening around the edges perhaps. There has always been a genuine desire to do better by people, especially those that are most vulnerable, but there seems to be a higher expectation that we will. It's hard to put into words, but I feel surer these days that what right minded people in customer service have been instinctively trying to to do for a long time is better supported now. Perhaps it has to do with the change in government as it's been coming a while. I just hope that the good things will not be so bound up in complication that there isn't still a degree of flexibility. And that "help" isn't foisted on people when it's not appropriate. A comment I've heard quite a few times from customers is that the government has spent far too much money on programs or courses that have been of no practical help to them. And that the only ones to benefit are the providers themselves. It is horrible to think that there is an industry out there that is dependent on poverty and hardship. That said, I hear the opposite too, that there are some really good programs and courses out there.
Today at work, a whole lot of things changed. Australian social security legislation and policy recognised same sex relationships for the first time. There were bins and bins of old forms out in the store room awaiting destruction today. We have new questions to ask people who share accommodation and I asked the questions for the first time today. I was nervous, but I explained the change and that I'd never asked this set of questions before. The customer took it in his stride and gave me some good feedback on how to put things. A new batch of employment service providers have come on line, there are changes to activity test requirements and to what's known as the compliance framework (ie what happens when you don't do what you're supposed to). And everything has a new name and a new acronym. Of course. And while the computer system didn't crash, it was pretty slow at times. Lots of white screen (non) action. And we were light on for staff. Of course. But tomorrow, my weekend, or home time begins. And suddenly we are at the beginning of a new financial year and the year is sliding by rather quickly. Before you know it, it'll be Christmas.