Can we be of assistance?

Posted: November 6, 2009 in Uncategorized
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Here in Australia, we have all manner of assistance programs. One of the latest incarnations is the Job Services Australia program. This is a service that was recently overhauled and supposedly provides access to various job placement networks. If you are like myself and suffering from a disability, you can access a quite specific part of this network to provide tailored assistance.

How it operates is like this.

You make contact with a preferred job network and learn that first of all you need to attend your doctor and pay him his fee to complete a lengthy medical referral. Next you make contact with Centrelink who record your contact and assure you that they will be in touch shortly with an interview time and place to have a job capacity assessment completed. Several weeks shall pass by without contact despite you making regular follow up and having various staff confirm that yes, you have been making contact and yet further assurances of rapid follow up – that never actually occur. The next step is to visit an actual Centrelink office and refuse to leave until they have done what they had promised to do about a month before – make you an appointment for a job capacity assessment.

Centrelink will now realise that your disability pension is not paid via Centrelink but via a superannuation fund. Centrelink staff shall now lecture you that you are not eligible for any referral to the Job Services Australia program, despite all advertising to the contrary. All in the jolly spirit of the occasion, you need to engage in a a shouting match in order to attract the attention of a supervisor who will then inform his delinquent staff member that you are indeed eligible for referral and to make an immediate appointment for you. An immediate appointment is in fact in a week-and-a-half’s time.

With the appointment confirmed and the lengthy medical report done, you confirm that your preferred provider is still in fact prepared to take you as a client, noting that you are already a client of other services of that organisation. With that confirmation in hand, you head off gaily to the job capacity assessment. A very pleasant young lady shall then interview you, take the copies of detailed medical reports that you thought to take with you and send you on your way. As a result of this assessment, it shall be determined that your preferred network cannot in fact take you, although do not expect anyone to actually make contact with them to make sure of their facts. Instead you will be referred to yet another network.

The new network you are referred to shall initially deny all knowledge of any appointment having been made but after some days, eventually someone discovers how to turn the computer on and actually check. A pleasant half-hour is then spent filling out forms and you will then be told that a case manager shall be assigned in two weeks time, but noting that you shall have to complete mandatory training programs before they will actually start helping with the job search. Naturally anyone seeking assistance is an illiterate delinquent who needs extensive coaching before they can be turned loose on unsuspecting employers.

Now if you are a conscientious little swot as I am, you will continue the job search all the same and have an amazing opportunity present itself, with the potential employer particularly interested in the prospect of some governmental assistance that comes with employing you as a participant in the Job Services Australia program. The next step for you is to contact the job network provider to explain that you have potentially found a position but need to be able to provide contact details for the prospective employer to discuss things with. In response to that good news, you will be informed that thou shalt have a case manager in two days time although the file has yet to leave the desk of the chap who did the intake interview the previous week. Well why not rush a case manager through – all the hard work will have already been done for them and they get an easy ‘success’ to add to their Key Performance Indicators.

With our pessimistic old friend, Murphy, working overtime, after a week or so you make contact once more to see what’s going on. Now it transpires that there isn’t a case manager even available but one shall be made available in the near future. Another week goes by and you discover that there never were any case managers even available in the first place but instead recruitment action is pending so you can expect to get someone, sometime, who is brand new to it all and won’t have a clue about how things work.

The joyful news shall continue for yet another week at which time you are advised that recruitment is still pending, but naturally, you are informed that you shall have a case manager assigned ‘soon’ although no indication can be provided as to when this may actually occur.

As you ruminate on this fun little experience of being out of pocket for doctor’s bills and mounting numbers of telephone calls, you will recall that the lovely young lady who did the job capacity assessment, assured you that if things were not working out with the assigned network, all you have to do is call and she would arrange a transfer to another provider.

Being cautious, you will first contact your preferred provider – again – and be told by them – again – that they are happy to take you as a client. With that glad news to hand, you then contact the parties who did the job capacity assessment. However due to the office in the nation’s capital not having anything as luxurious as someone who can assess the computer file, you will be asked, quite politely, to spend money on STD telephone calls to their Sydney office. These friendly people in Sydney will confirm that yes, they shall contact the assessor the following day and get things moving for you – sorry that it didn’t work out for you so far.

Several days later you will then discover that your preferred supplier has not heard so much as a misplaced rectal emanation from the assessors but you will receive a mysterious telephone message asking you to contact a specific person at the assessor’s office. Sadly, when you return that call, said contact at the assessors will not have the faintest idea of why you are calling or what she is supposed to be doing. But that situation is easily rectified with yet another telephone call to the lovely young lady you saw the previous month in that same office.

Oh dear, she shall inform you. Our administration were supposed to call you. We cannot transfer you to another provider at all now as too much time has passed since the assessment was done. The file is locked and I cannot access any information – what is your telephone number by the way?

The particularly joyful news is that you need to start the entire process all over again, just as you had done four months ago. But never fear, you shall be informed of a telephone call being made the following day to explain just how this is to be progressed. When the promised call does not eventuate, you will call the assessors – yet again – only to be told – yet again – that nobody can assist. Entirely puzzled by the state of affairs, you will contact your preferred supplier to see if they have heard anything. Now you shall learn that the preferred supplier, equally mystified as to what is going on, has made contact with the supplier that you were actually directed to. They will have informed your preferred supplier that they have no intention of releasing your file (why would they – numbers of clients means more government money to them) and that, yes, you guessed it, you are to be assigned a case manager in a week’s time.

The preferred supplier will by now be almost as frustrated as you are and shall suggest that they will contact the assessors themselves to try and find out what on earth is going on. But of course Friday has come around once more and the world has stopped turning, not to resume gravitational orbit once more until Monday.

Perhaps you should consider a formal complaint to the Education Department the preferred supplier shall suggest. After an hour of fruitless search of the Department’s website, you will have failed to come up with so much as a contact telephone number or even an address to post a letter to.

So next week, after all the gleeful excitement of the past wasted four months, you get to start it all over again. In the meantime, because of the stigma of being disabled, employers shall continue to not want to have anything to do with you. Unclean! Unclean!

Here in Australia, we have all manner of assistance programs. What a pity that they’re actually a time-and-money-wasting load of bollocks that keep the perpetrators in work but do nothing to help those actually seeking work.

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