Sunday, 17 June 2012

I was aware of the story

because it appeared in our state newspaper.  I then heard about it from two more sources. It goes like this.
A man with a fairly common name receives a letter from a government department.
It is, unusually, hand addressed. The letter itself states the writer believes he may be the father of a child. He is ordered (not asked) to attend the offices of the department for further questioning.  Knowing full well he is not the father of the child, indeed of any child, he attends because he must. He is questioned. At the end of the questioning he is told, "You can go."
There is no further explanation.There is no thanks for attendance or cooperation. There is no apology.
Now this has happened to at least two men. It may have happened to others. The newspaper reports suggested that it has. I have, by quite extraordinary coincidence, been told about two by other people closely associated with the men.
The first recipient was a young man, too young to be the father of the child in question. The other also cannot be the father because of other facts which would also be easily checked.
In the case of the young man he was away working at the time. At his request his mother opened the letter. She was apparently even more upset and shocked than he was even though she realised the allegation was baseless. In the case of the other letter the intended recipient opened it but his partner saw it. Both were shocked and upset. Their relationship is sound. They will support one another but it could have been very different.
To allege someone is the father of a child outside a relationship is serious enough in itself. We all know it happens. We know that people get both rightly and falsely accused.
The problem here is the manner in which the department in question set about seeking information. There was no attempt to check facts that could have eliminated people without contacting them. There was no attempt to be discreet. There was no explanation. There was no thanks for the cooperation, the attendance or the time taken.There was no apology for the distress caused.
Above all there was, apparently, no thought for the possible consequences of the action which was taken. It could be the sort of allegation which would send someone over the edge or break up a relationship. How do you explain to your boss that you need time off to attend an interview? If you are honest is your boss going to think "no smoke without fire"? Will it go on somebody's employment record?
A government department did this. They do this sort of thing more often than people realise. It rarely becomes public knowledge. The individuals to whom it happens often suffer in silence. Trying to take it anywhere will, normally, get you nowhere.
It would have been much better to make some discreet telephone calls to the men they wished to interview. It would have been much better to check some facts first.
It made me realise that, sometimes, it is better not to write something down.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This time it is being taken up with an Opposition MP Cat - young man's mother knows someone in the LA. Don't know how far they will get but it should at least result in a formal apology. Think you managed to get them to do that when they hashed up the adoption issue for that Rotary student? Some of them are way too arrogant!Chris