One of the terms used often in legal language is “reasonable”.
What would a reasonable person think.
How much is reasonable force.
How does a reasonable person behave.
But what happens when you are faced with a person who does not apply “reason” to a situation. Expectations are not met and frustration is incurred. In most cases, ie. relationships, you can have a big blow-up, argue it out and then get over it.
However, when faced with a bureaucrat who applies rules without compassion; who has no vested interest in the outcome; who is power hungry and using your situation to advance their career, things can turn nasty very quickly.
Several stories have emerged lately from Housing tenants who have been forced into disastrous situations by uncaring CSOs and Team Leaders. These tales range from the mildly stupid to the outright corrupt and vindictive.
Take the CSO who rocked up at a tenant’s doorstep, interviewed the “boyfriend” who was visiting and then reported it incorrectly on the neighbours file as an Unauthorised Occupant. The neighbour was vigorously investigated and the CSO would not admit their mistake.
Or the CSO who failed to answer 12 emails over a period of 8 weeks – each asking the same question: “what further paperwork do you need?” The tenant zealously sought an answer but there was total silence from Housing. Two months later the tenant received an eviction notice for failing to provide paperwork. The tenant’s file was marked with the comment “harassing Housing staff with emails. “
And what about the vindictive Team Leader – when reported for misconduct, set out on a path of retaliation, spending hours (and countless $$) digging up tidbits of gossip in a cruel and relentless pursuit of the accuser.
As more and more Housing tenants are drawn from the pool of desperation, with language barriers, mental illness and high-needs roadblocks; tenant’s rights are eroded and the power of those behind the desk increases, placing vulnerable clients at the mercy of callous staff.
Is it reasonable to expect Housing staff to act with an ounce of humanity?
All NSW public servants, and in particular those who work directly with the public like Housing or DoCS workers, are governed by a beautifully written document titled Code of Ethical Conduct .
It is 29 pages long the core principles are Integrity, Trust, Service and Accountability.
[Okay, stop laughing now]
You can just tell that it took a back room team a year to write it and then an additional year to have it peer reviewed and then many more months to get the legal language correct. All this so that it can sit in the public servant’s bottom drawer and be ignored.
And what happens if they breach it?
Well, they get investigated. Not by an independent team or an outside body – they get to investigate themselves. I wonder how often they find themselves guilty?
So next time you are heading down to the Housing office, print out the list below and score when they comply with the code. Offer the staff member a report card or better still – offer to send their report card to their Team Leader.
Consider people equally without prejudice or favour
Act professionally with honesty, consistency and impartiality
Take responsibility for situations, showing leadership and courage
Place public interest over personal interest.
Appreciate difference and welcome learning from others
Build relationships based on mutual respect
Uphold the law, institutions of government and democratic principles
Communicate intentions clearly and invite teamwork and collaboration
Provide apolitical and non-partisan advice.
Provide services fairly with a focus on client needs
Be flexible, innovative and reliable in service delivery
Engage with the not-for-profit and business sectors to develop and implement service solutions
Focus on quality while maximising service delivery.
Recruit and promote staff on merit
Take responsibility for decisions and actions
Provide transparency to enable public scrutiny
Observe standards for safety
Be fiscally responsible and focus on efficient, effective and prudent use of resources.
Have you ever sat across from a Housing staff member in an interview or at the counter and wondered. how the hell does this person manage to get away with being so incompetent?
Like most bureaucrats, the more inept the person the higher they rise to the top.
It happens like this: the supervisor or team leader is desperate to get rid of the incompetent staff member so they write a glowing reference and initiate a transfer to another section. The new section realises they have been duped and promotes the incompetent person to a higher level. As there are no positions available in that department at the higher level, this method is used as a means of transferring them elsewhere.
Thus, with little effort and no oversight, the most bumbling, facile fool is now in charge of the office.
Drunk on their own vaulted rise to the top, their sense of self-importance is inflated and their ineptitude flows through the entire staff.
When Housing NSW handed over large swathes of its stock to various Community Housing operators – one of the unforeseen disadvantages was the upset caused when trying to do a Mutual Exchange.
Anecdotal reports say that some have been successful, whilst others have been blocked. It seems that it depends on the mood of the officials involved and that there is no hard and fast policy to follow.
The officials with a sense of compassion and an ounce of common sense can see how it is ALWAYS beneficial to all parties when they find a suitable property to swap.
This is the latest missive to land in my inbox:
I am renting through Community Housing, i had no choice but to take this place because it was my second choice and you can’t turn down your second choice (An unnecessary rule i think). I need to go back to the area i was in because my daughter goes to school there and i work there. I am wasting a lot of petrol going back and forth and my car doesn’t have much life left. No buses leave early enough for me to get to work on time so i would lose my job if my car dies. I recently found a lady i can swap with,she is in the area i want and she wants to swap! Because she is with Housing NSW they won’t let her swap with Community Housing. Who made up this ridiculous rule? I would love to hear from others if they have done a mutual exchange from Community Housing to Housing NSW? And if anyone was allowed to go from a 2 bedroom to a 3 bedroom with only 2 people?
Can anybody add to this discussion? Have you been successful with a Community to HNSW swap?
Have you been blocked by short-sighted bureaucrats?
Please comment below but remember, no names of tenants or staff.