Increase Visibility of Government Access Points

The public experiences government through a web of services made up of seemingly endless councils, departments, corporations, and contracted organisations. The business of the civil service must be to aid a diverse public, with diverse needs, to find points of access within these complicated structures.

Those working in government know a plethora of supports already exist, however, the vast majority of New Zealanders have no idea how to begin accessing them. A great many government websites already function as portals for FAQs, providing broad overviews of government processes (; however, the public lean most heavily on front line staff and typical big names like EAP, tenancy services, citizens advice bureau, or health line, to name a few.

New Zealand’s COVID-19 response presents us with a powerful example of when government access points work well. During the pandemic, a range of multi-media tools have been used to provide education, issue government edicts, manage misinformation, and coordinate health screening or testing. Through these various access points, the public are kept engaged and aware — leading to high levels of active citizenship and accountability for each other’s health and wellbeing. Simply put, we all knew what was happening and where to go if we needed help. We can take this success and use it to build better advocacy tools and portals into other areas of government.

By making each sector's tools and supports more visible, we encourage more active and informed engagement with government. To demystify the public’s experience of government, I envision the following action plan.

  1. Identify sector leading access points across the spectrum of government. Are any sectors lacking approachable access points?
  2. Promote awareness of existing tools and supports through a multi-media campaign, such as an app that represents a ‘pool’ of resources which better connect people to the corner of government they require.
  3. Resource across the board training for front-line government staff to encourage inter-agency literacy and knowledge of support services.
  4. Work with existing advoacy groups and providers to strengthen key access points. 

An ultimate vision would be to create one centralised access point for the public to use as a kind of fulcrum, moving that person on to find the service or support they needed. Department level websites are often not fit for purpose, as they must necessarily operate as central hubs for a range of information, making these websites less useful for the public who rely heavily on call centres and other front line activities to obtain clarity.

Why the contribution is important

An obtruse and confusing array of government systems may prevent New Zealanders from being more actively engaged with government. If we can demystify the business of government, making it more approachable, we help our people find the support they need, which for the most part already exists. 

As a front-line worker in the health sector, I have the daily priviledge of helping people navigate complex systems, legislation, and policy. I look for ways of connecting the person in front of me with the few support networks I'm aware of, but there's very little resourcing in this area. Anecdotal evidence aside, it makes sense to remove any barriers that may be preventing the public from finding support, which they can't do if they don't know they exist or how to find them. 

We partner with New Zealanders when we increase public capacity to utilise government services for their common good. 

by Iain on April 18, 2021 at 09:53PM

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