Efficiency, restructuring and defending the indefensible

The shambles which is my house is not always appreciated by visiting family members.

They are frustrated at the level of malfunction — no light in the basement, sliding doors which require bulging muscles and a particular technique before they budge a centimetre, a cupboard door which is more unhinged than I am, a leaky fridge, a slowly filling toilet cistern ... .

They wonder why I keep things including two (!) kettles I can no longer use because I melted their plastic bases by turning on the stove element on which they were sitting.

One of the offspring is bemused at the fact I have had a hollow piece of cabbage tree on a sideboard since he put it there half his lifetime ago. He had thought at the time it might make a good drum but, in the end, did nothing with it.

I do not think it is doing any harm sitting there quietly in the sun minding its own business and probably gathering the odd cobweb, but perhaps its presence reminds him it is a project uncompleted. Uncompleted projects are par for the course at my stage of life’s round of golf.

In my own befuddled head, I can excuse my slovenliness/inertia by thinking there is something appealing, comforting even, about family knowing that when they return home many things will be much the same as when they left.

They would call that a pathetic attempt to defend the indefensible.

If I were a public agency, no doubt they would be proposing a comprehensive restructure, designed to make me more efficient. As they see many things about my life as accidents waiting to happen, they could adjust the name of the Accident Compensation Corporation’s multimillion-dollar revamp ‘‘Next Generation Case Management’’ to ‘‘Previous Generation Head Case Management’’.

Not that the ACC one seems to be going that well, despite the top brass’ attempts to make us think it is.

While the plan was to increase productivity and make the organisation more ‘‘client centric’’ many people seem to think it is doing the opposite.

There are reports of staff regularly crying in the stairwells (I hope there are suitable safety rails to stop accidents as they negotiate steps when blinded by tears) because of too much work, increased stress and decreased client satisfaction.

The restructure was completed in September last year and means claims are managed nationally. It was supposed to free up time for complex case management.

Of course, no restructure worth its salt escapes jargon because it is part of the process of trying to convince staff they are doing something new and exciting when in fact the jobs are just as dreary and difficult as they have always been, and in some cases they might be worse. In ACC, RNZ reports a personal case manager for someone with complex needs is now called a recovery partner. There are also personal recovery co-ordinators and teams of up to 20 recovery assistants. (I can already hear the offspring competing for those titles in my restructure.)

There are concerns about high staff turnover and staff who complain about being told they need to manage their stress differently.

It is also worrying that in a survey of ACC Public Service Association members, privacy concerns and the lack of training some staff had when dealing with sensitive claims were highlighted.

Some staff expressed discomfort with the level of access they had to sensitive claims when their work may be ‘‘tangentially related at best’’, a delegate wrote.

RNZ has also covered concerns by claimants and their advocates about the high numbers of staff with access to sensitive claims information.

ACC’s acting chief executive Mike Tully’s response was to say the concerns raised by the PSA about access had not been raised with him and to stand by ACC’s access practices.

Is this what a client centric organisation would do? Wouldn’t it listen and take seriously concerns raised by claimants who have had to screw up their courage to make a claim in the first place and who may now be telling them they feel violated and traumatised by too many people having access to their files, even if that access is not full access?

And, having made changes in such a sensitive area, the organisation should be proactive about ensuring staff are happy about both their level of access and their training.

Mr Tully’s response sounds more like defending the indefensible.

P.S. An update on the home shambles front. Several improvements have been made by long-suffering irritated visitors. I have also proved the worth of my hoarding. One of my kettle lids will go to a friend on the Taieri whose own lid was wrecked by one of her visiting family members. Synchronicity. Trash to treasure. Recovery. Restructure redundant.

  • Elspeth McLean is a Dunedin writer.

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