As a community newspaper, we are quite accustomed to advocating on behalf of our readers. We do it routinely, whether it’s campaigning for maternity services to be restored or pressing for highway upgrades.
Occasionally, that role as community advocate expands well beyond the borders of the district we serve.
Emily Barton’s story about students waiting months for their youth allowance claims to be processed is a case in point.
When told of the difficulties being encountered by a local university student who had been waiting months for her claim to be processed, Emily sought others in the same boat via an online forum.
She was flooded with similar stories of frustration at a system clearly broken. Students who should be concentrating on their studies were left penniless by a bureaucracy that had seemingly ground to a halt.
Miraculously, after a well directed email inquiry from Emily, the logjam finally began to shift. Students who had all but given up hope were suddenly contacted by Centrelink and told their claims were being processed. This after months of inaction.
Word got out and Emily found herself the go-to person for other students in dire circumstances. She quipped she had taken on another full-time job.
Centrelink falls under the Department of Human Services but there was nothing humane or service oriented about the way these students were left hanging, one down to $3 for the next week.
It should not take the intervention of the media to get the machinery of government working.
Coming after the robo claim fiasco, which saw thousands of claimants wrongly told they had massive debts, this failure of Centrelink to stay on top of its workload is unacceptable.
We have a federal government that spins a narrative of jobs, growth and innovation, a government that wants to be seen encouraging young people to get the qualifications for a 21st century workforce.
When it doesn’t live up to its promise to help those young people through their studies, something is terribly wrong.
It’s no good expecting people to sit on hold for up to two hours waiting to speak to someone about the progress of their claims. It’s no good that when they finally get through, they are no closer to finding out what’s going on.
We should be better than this.