We were at dinner last night and hearing about an instance of complete bureaucratic madness. The woman telling the story is a very energetic and competent person in her 60s.
For a number of years, she has been a volunteer driver, ferrying mainly frail elderly women to doctor’s appointments, run errands, sometimes just for a drive. She had got to know many of the clients and a strong rapport has been built up. The clients paid a small fee – I think it was $5 or $10 – as a contribution towards the cost of the service.
The scheme is a joint one, run by the local council and partly funded by the state government. Anyway, there was a pool of cars which the volunteers could use. The man who ran the scheme was kindly and efficient and managed the volunteers well.
All this has now changed. Some unknown committee decided that the scheme would have to change to keep up with the times. The manager was effectively forced out and is now on stress leave.
A new, higher-paid female has taken his place and insisted that:
- Cash payments would no longer be received and clients must use electronic transfer payments methods. Needless to say, most of the clients don’t even have a computer, so this has involved the volunteers taking the clients down the bank to arrange the transfer, for which the banks are charging a fee (as high as $4.50).
- The volunteer drivers are not allowed to provide anymore than 2 services to the same client in a given period lest an unhealthy relationship develop between the volunteer and client.
- The volunteers have all had to resubmit for police checks.
- The availability of cars has now become chaotic (this aspect had been well managed before) and volunteers often arrive to find no cars are available to meet booked commitments.
And, lo and behold, a far swag of the volunteers have now quit, annoyed at the arrogance and stupidity of the new manager and the new rules. What seemed like a pretty good service – most of the clients live alone and do not have family living close by – looks to be on the point of collapse.
If this story were not depressing enough, I know of other similar instances. Where’s the common sense, I ask?