This is what it’s like to need income support

April 16th, 2016  |  Published in Poverty & Hardship

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Stereotypes of “dole bludgers” always make me wonder how I would feel if I were being targeted, and I  know I do not like the feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I sometimes post relevant articles on my 2020socialjustice Facebook page, and the comments provide an unfailing reminder of the way insult is added to struggle for many people.pp4

Following a clip from 7News, that “around a quarter of dole recipients are skipping job interviews or rejecting work,” I collated responses into this webpost. The complete Facebook post is also embedded as a comment.

This is what it’s like to need income support…

(AR) I would like to tell my story as I don’t think people know this, or believe it, to be honest.

My general practitioner of three years told Centrelink that I was unable to work for three months, via a specific Centrelink supplied medical certificate. I lodged it with Centrelink, only to be told that they would not accept it and that I would have to job search through disability services.

No other doctor saw me, no interview, nothing. Just a paper-pusher at a desk has the right to override a doctor’s decision and force you to attend appointments (mine on foot as I don’t own a car) when you are unwell to a degree that a doctor decides you can’t work.

There is no appeal process.

I just received another text message about my upcoming appointment at disability services. So I will haul myself out of bed and find either public transport (none exists at my home) to then walk to an office where they will see I am too sick to work.

They will waste their time, punch a few numbers, click a few boxes. I will then go back home to bed and pray that the trip won’t make me sicker than I already am.

And don’t forget… the last thing you are capable of is a bureaucratic fight when you are too ill to work!

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(PPO) I know a woman who was made to do 20 cold calls every week, taking along a letter promising $5000 if someone employed her at age 64 years. After a lot of stress she had a heart attack. When I rang them to say she was not attending an appointment as she was in surgery the answer was she needs a doctor’s certificate (no “hope she will be okay”). Now she is back doing the same thing. She will be able to get a pension this May when she turns 65.

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(RG) My son has autism and was diagnosed last year with schizophrenic disorder. He was rejected for a disability pension (he had documentation from his general practitioner, psychologist and psychiatrist) because autism and schizophrenic behaviors “blurred” together.

When we had the two-hour meeting with an “allied health worker” at Centrelink, it came down to the fact he wasn’t in the middle of a psychosis.hr1

The medication he is on is to prevent a psychosis.

I just wanted him to have some financial independence as he is 18 and having to do Senior over three years due to a mental breakdown.  Apparently he didn’t make the 20 points – because I am his Memory to support him with hygiene, medication, and eating etc.

The Allied health worker’s advice – he could get a job at EB games.

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(PG) I had to attend an interview even though I said I was not well. All they wanted to do was to see me in person. So I went there with a doctor’s certificate to give to them. I struggled to get up the stairs, had pains in my chest, was sweating and felt nauseous. I gave them my certificate, only to be told I had to take it to Centrelink.

So it was off to Centrelink to stand in a long line just to hand in the form. By the time I was served I thought I was having a heart attack my chest was so painful. I gave them the form.

I got in my car to go home and felt dizzy.

Luckily I was opposite the hospital, so I pulled over in case I did have a heart attack while on the road and possibly be a danger to other drivers. I was taken straight to the emergency department where I ended up in the Critical Care Unit where I spent the night wired up and had follow-up tests all night and the next day.

I did have an attack and now need to have an MRI and further tests. Hopefully they will now leave me alone so I can concentrate on getting well instead of killing myself trying to find work that I am unable to do.

I am also a Carer and 61 years old. I worked all my life, paid taxes and care for my son who has Asperger’s Syndrome. Yet they have the audacity to label people in my situation “dole bludgers”.

And to top it all off there are not enough points to put me on a disability pension, which I would not accept unless I needed it.

Since I can’t work why waste time and energy going to some JobSearch place where you have people who want to help you with a resume? I am University educated. I know how to do a resume.

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(MB) I have found Centrelink good to deal with, but I am not required to jump through hoops for my benefit nor am I time poor.

Outsourcing social services to private companies while at the same time reducing public servant numbers has resulted in too many stories of payments being suspended or docked because of minor ‘misdemeanours’ such as having a ‘bad attitude’ or ‘being uncooperative’.

The ‘reforms’ made to the system, including the self-service, have thrown the initiative on the recipient, without there being any responsibility on the part of the department which does not resource its customer service properly.

The changes smack of what is happening in the UK where the underprivileged and social security beneficiaries have been crushed beneath a humiliating system designed to destroy the last vestiges of pride and self-esteem in the country.

The underlying principle seems to be that people on benefits are worthless and unworthy of getting their entitlements. So, make life as miserable as possible for them, make them suffer, penalise them for being poorly educated, sick, elderly, disabled and, especially important, remind them they are a burden to their fellow citizens.

This from the same people who have their money salted away in tax havens, who have never wanted for anything, but who want to control the lives of others.

But what do we do about it? Nothing. We complain.

protest1Take an example from Iceland where the people made their disgust patently clear to their prime minister. And I guarantee that resignation won’t be the end of it. There will be repercussions and questions asked, and money will be recovered.

How did the people react when Malcolm Turnbull had his money salted away in the Cayman Islands? It whistled over the heads of way too many of the very people being harmed by his party. Someone from a background like that, and all his cronies who are like-minded and of similar wealth should be forbidden from positions where they decide the priorities of the poor, the young, the underprivileged and the elderly.

Yet, day by day, we are listening to Turnbull pontificating about ‘we can’t afford’, ‘we have to live within our means’, without a dissenting voice being heard. What an insult; a millionaire telling the poor to live within their means.

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(LDL) Centrelink took two whole days for me last week, trying to sort out their bungles, both on the phone and in person. It was a nightmare and caused me so much stress. I’m grateful we have this help, but they sure make you jump through hoops for your pittance of a payment.

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(RR) Anyone who has had the misfortune of having to rely on welfare now has to report not only to their JobSearch providers, but also to Centrelink and now through myGov.

If someone along the line makes a mistake (God forbid they’re only human) it then takes no less than 45 minutes to get through to any government or corporate department. If you live in a regional or rural area, you are then put on hold for another 30 minutes to an hour to be transferred to the rural sector.

If you are lucky your phone doesn’t run out of charge or credit.

Anyone who has been through this week after week – especially if they are low income earners or self-employed, have family commitments, or mental or physical health issues – could easily get to the point of just about wanting to neck themselves with frustration. I’m not kidding.

And I suspect these barriers are put there on purpose so that people simply give up.

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(MG) Of course no one is talking about the administrative mistakes and inevitable circumstances that happen to cause the breaches such as:

  • Centrelink technology making massive mistakes and clients not being able to find a customer service officer to deal with the issue. That’s if they answer the phone; sometimes it just gets disconnected.
  • Job Centre case managers giving out mobile phone numbers and failing to answer when clients are trying to rearrange appointment times.
  • Sending clients to organisations that don’t actually have any job openings.
  • Pushing clients to interviews for employment that they have no hope of getting because there’s a quota to fill.
  • Clients becoming sick on the day of the appointment and not being able to call.
  • Running out of mobile credit and being without access to a payphone.

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(MS) Mainstream media continue to report that everyone is a bludger. Of course there’s always some abusing the system, but it’s not the story for everyone. Some of these agencies with the power to report and default job seekers have absolutely ridiculous expectations!  Critics need to dig below the surface:

  • Did the job interfere with child care?
  • Were people expected to work for below minimum wages? (Yes, it does happen, I had to fight for minimum wages myself, and got sacked for being a troublemaker. Way too much effort to fight, for a minimum shit-kicking job).
  • How were people travelling to work? Could they get there on time?

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(SM) Job agencies are not really putting in effort if this experience is an example.

I had a person come to a charity. They were told they had to come. The agency rang just before the person arrived and informed the worker that this person would be difficult and didn’t want to volunteer but had to. The job agency stated they didn’t know what to do with this person.

It appeared the person had not been handled properly by the agency. The situation was allowed to escalate so the client was angry and uncooperative and also the charity shop was put in an untenable position – big lose all round!

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(CE) Several countries are now trialling a basic payment for everyone. Whether you are rich or poor, employed, sick or unemployed, you still get a payment fortnightly that is basically liveable. This avoids all the costs of administration because everyone gets the same thing from 18 to death. It appears to be a much cheaper solution.

I know as a welfare worker that many of my clients would be much more likely to work if they knew they had a secure payment, no matter what happened to their job or health. Usually the anxiety of being without secure employment pushes them to cling to welfare. If they felt secure they would pick up work and be much better off.

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We need a change of narrative and change of policy

I would not want to be the person at the centre of any of these stories, and cannot imagine any useful purpose served by the “dole bludger” narrative. It is offensive and unfair to people in need, and seems hardly likely to motivate anyone who is inclined to rort the system.

I agree with MB’s suggestion that the political purpose may be to depict recipients of income support as worthless, and hence unworthy. Why not? It has worked with asylum seekers. Once a group of people is constructed as unworthy, it becomes toosocjus20 easy to treat them appallingly.

The idea of a basic payment – as mentioned by CE (and as currently being trialled in some countries and proposed for Canada) – appeals to me. I know it’s a big leap from where we are, policy-wise, but surely worth thinking about.

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34 comments on “This is what it’s like to need income support”

  1. Glen says:

    Thank you to the author and everyone that writes about how deeply disheartening our ” support” networks are.

    Obviously without support we could not live when faced with major adversity but I don’t see why we can’t be treated like humans in this tough time.

    I myself have been affected by illness and connected to that high levels of anxiety/ panic attacks and depression all medically diagnosed and affecting me for many years now.

    Before suffering from illness I was working in a well paying job with a lot of responsibility. When the illness/anxiety hit me like a brick and out of the blue, I was unable to work and spent years just trying to get a diagnosis for treatment. Eventually my savings ran dry and I had to seek support from Centrelink to help keep my family afloat.

    I have been suffering from the same conditions for the whole time and under the care of specialists/psychologists/GPs etc but have still had a number of medical certificates rejected and was told by someone at a desk, at centrelink, that I met for 10 minutes, that my doctors were wrong and I had a limited work capacity and so was put under a DES provider .

    The first provider was closed due to budget apparently and so I was transferred to another. The experience has been very similar to what I see here, where you are harrassed with threats constantly about losing your payments if you don’t attend ” special group courses ” that have nothing to do with your experience or current medical situation. You get treated like children and made to feel that we should be lucky that they even speak to us. All the while not finding a single appropriate job opportunity just trying to force us to take anything from a kitchen hand to a telemarketeer with no regard to any medical conditions.

    I have had payments suspended for meetings that I knew nothing about and have had managers hang up the phone on me when I called to ask what was going on.

    I asked the agency why they are not considerate of people’s medical conditions and circumstances and was blatantly told that they don’t care about what we can’t do they just have to get us into work.

    The treatment I was given by these people, actually worsened my condition to the point where my Dr provided a medical certificate for 1 month exemption and referral for escalation of my medical treatment.

    I strongly believe that if people were put in a similar situation by these scumbag agencies and did not have the support i had with my family through this we would see some worse results than mine. The agency I was sent to by Centrelink is also apparently one of their preferred providers yet on my investigation continually scores 1/5 for client satisfaction on the job provider websites.

    I took the medical certificate to centrelink and tried to explain how bad my situation was getting and could they help me out and they first of all sent me away to get a checkbox ticked on the medical certificate so that it was complete ( even though the information on the rest of the form allowed you to see what was intended) . When I returned and waited again they processed the medical cert for 1 month away from the provider but said there is nothing they can do to help that’s up to me.

    I know I can change to another DES provider and hope the experience is better, but after having 1 month away from the system I have decided that the best thing for my health is to voluntarily stop receiving centrelink support and separate myself from the system. This is a very scary thing as we had to have a long discussion as a family about it but for my health I need to avoid this type of treatment that just pulls you further down.

    You only need to spent part of the day in a centrelink office or one of these providers to see how depressed on a whole the people are who have to go there and how selfish and uncaring the staff are. I have seen so many windows repaired on the building I attend and have seen them employ security guards to walk around staring at everyone to apparently protect the staff.. and it’s not even a bad neighbourhood it’s just the way they leave people feeling.

    I really hope that for the sake of other people who have no choice but to rely on the support, that they can eventually be treated in a way that helps them get back on their feet.

    I have only been made to feel better about myself 1 time by centrelink and the man just said to me ” I understand how you feel and you don’t have to feel bad. You have paid far more in taxes etc than you will ever in payments and when you need a hand this is designed to help you out” – imagine if we had more clear thinkers who care in the system

    • Glen, thank you for this detailed and informative comment. I’m not surprised that your experience of the system made your conditions worse. It would cause anxiety and depression even in those for whom these were not initial presenting issues.
      I’m really sorry to hear that you are now at the point of backing out. I can see how it could well be essential for your health, and I hope you can now breath more freely. Also that you manage okay with the supports you clearly do have.
      Having people withdraw their claims for benefits is, I suspect, exactly what politicians are hoping for, although they would never admit that straight up I don’t suppose. It would be spun in a way that put more blame on those already victimised by brutal policy.
      I hate to think about the future we are heading into unless we have a major turnaround of mindset.

  2. Daniel says:

    It sounds from these stories like a lot of people are being ill-treated. I’m on income support due to illness and there’s no way anyone is going to stuff me around. I had a med cert rejected so walked into Centrelink, and asked what on earth they were thinking. It was approved on the spot. A job services provider agent tried to get “tough” on me without even getting to know me. talking about my medical issues or reading my file! I went to head office and made a lot of noise. It was all speedily resolved. You have to stand up for yourself although I realise not everyone has that capacity.

    • Good work, Daniel, and good to hear it can be done, although I think you’re right that it’s not in everyone’s skill set to advocate for themselves, and it’s bad for everyone when the system becomes punitive and adversarial.
      You know you could perhaps do a great job as an advocate for others who are trying, less successfully than you, to navigate the system…Getting someone to pay you for your work might be a bit harder!

  3. I didn’t note it at the time, but I also sent the link for this post to the Minister for Human Servives, Alan Tudge (by email on 19 April). I have not received a reply, and we have had an election in the interim (returning LNP to power) so I doubt that, almost three months down the track (13 July), I will now get any response. If I do I will update this comment.

  4. Aimee says:

    I work for a disability provider and none of this happens in our organisation. The rules and policies are necessary and will not suit everyone but it is up to your provider to assist you in the best path. There is always an appeals process. I have many people who have been referred to me by Centrelink to search for employment however, common sense has to play a role. If i have someone who clearly cannot work due to medical reasons i will fight for reassessment and support them, even attend centrelink appointments with them. I think so much time is spent whinging about the process instead of asking how can i make the most of it? There are loads of opportunities to complete training, volunteer work etc to meet mutual obligation and support to seek ‘suitable’ employment – meaning medical conditions must be considered and you cannot be asked to apply for positions that will aggravate a condition.

    • Thanks for your comment, Aimee. I expect there are many competent and fair workers, and even whole organisations. I also accept that people who are commenting here are describing their experiences and would not call that “whinging”. Additionally, I think that beyond individual people, workers, and organisations, there are systemic issues as illustrated, for example, in the Four Corners program on “The Jobs Game”. http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2015/02/23/4183437.htm

  5. Embedding an additional link to a subsequent Facebook post of an article by Christiane Barro (Monash Uni Journalism) that connected with this webpost and may have included interviews with some of the people who contributed.

  6. Hi, I’m 42 y.o and suffer from chronic back pain ( spinal injury 2000), recurrent shoulder dislocations (since 2005), depression and anxiety (diagnosed in 2002) and seizures (since 2005), I survive on heavy duty painkillers OxyContin, which makes my concentration go out of window and very very drowsy. First time I applied for disability pension in 2002 and was refused on the grounds that if I had spinal surgery it would fix my problems, back then I had to see a “Centrelink doctor” that was a qualified medical practitioner. I had 2 spinal surgeries in 2003 which didn’t work. I was granted disability pension in 2004 after being assessed by same medical practitioner and that was proper examination, simular to one I have when I see new GP or neurosurgeon. In 2007 I had to move overseas for 18 months and pension was cut off. When I came back in Australia in May 2008 they told me that rules changed and I cant just restore my pension and need to start the process anew. I provided report after report, from GPs, neurosurgeons, chronic pain specialists and all the assessments were performed by a social worker now, they wouldn’t look at MRI or CAT scans or do any examinations, instead there would be hours of questions to most of which I wouldn’t even have an answer. Then they suggested that I was a single mum by then not to bother with the disability pension and I got put on single parent payment, I had a lot of drama in my life by then and had no energy to fight Centrelink. In 2010 I lost family court battle, so I made another go for disability pension, same same, reports and social worker deeming I can work at least 8 hours a week, despite all specialist stating I wasn’t able to work to the rest of my life. I was put on Newstart and referred to disability employment services. The case worker was hostile and lacked any social skills or common sense. She was pushing me to get jobs as bush ranger or fireman, the nightmare lasted for 2 years, I was granted disability pension in 2012. But it came at cost, now at anytime for whatever reason I have to deal with Centrelink I get panic attacks. I often hear comments about people on welfare “living like Kings”, I bet the once that say that never attempted to live on it, the NewStart Allowance is 28% below poverty line, 2 years on New Start Allowance left me on black list with power companies, phone, water, blacklisted by real-estate for all the debts I accumulated and I was going without meals sometimes for days, I don’t see how anyone would choose such a life.

    • I don’t see how anyone would choose such a life either, Irina. Your experience sounds like a nightmare, and I wish those who make comments about people on income support “living like kings” would read your story, and others on this post and elsewhere.
      I hope there are better possibilities in store for you in the future.

  7. HANK JONGEN OF CENTRELINK, SAYS…
    To those who have shared experiences of Centrelink and/or job service providers on the 2020socialjustice website and/or Facebook page:
    I sent the link for the website post (“This is what it’s like to need income support”) to the General Manager of Centrelink, Hank Jongen, and we have had some communication via his Facebook page, at the end of which he says:
    “Hi Joan, thanks for your reply and for bringing these cases to my attention. I’m happy to assist people where I can, however for privacy reasons they will need to contact me directly here so I can follow up.”
    By “here” he presumably means his Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/officialhankjongen/?fref=nf
    I think if people do follow up there’s a good chance of action as this is now in the public domain and he knows people are paying attention.
    It might also be useful to quote what you posted so that he can make the connection. If you would like to do that but have trouble finding it again, I should be able to help (If you message the page, or email to 2020socialjustice@gmail.com I will follow up)… Joan Beckwith.

  8. Marg says:

    I am 54 and find the experience of having to rely on part payment from Centrelink very stressful and depressing. I was nearly one of those “dole bludgers” suspended for not signing a job plan on the spot on the first visit at a DES (disability employment). The staff member was very loud and hostile and threaten to enter into the system that I was a “no show” and I presumed that meant cut off from Centrelink. I informed her I had 48 hours to consider it and had another appointment made. She continued with her rant in the open plan office for all to hear and lectured me about receiving government payments. At my age I am unlikely to find further employment, but must endure this hideous system for another decade or more. This is NOT what I expected from a Disability Employment Service and having anxiety/Depression, I left there feeling anxious/upset and wondered how they treated their other clients with disabilities and medical conditions. This whole employment system sucks, it seems to be all about compliance and punishment of the unemployed and sick/disabled. They are very quick to “suspend” the unemployed, I’ve heard of many people suspended for not attending appointments they didn’t even know about! There are not enough jobs to go around and I cant see how any one would want to live below the poverty line of around $260 a week!

    • Thanks for your comment, Marg. Your experience sounds awful, and is not isolated. If you weren’t anxious and depressed beforehand it’s hard to imagine being unscathed afterwards, and the system is effectively counterproductive in this respect (among others).
      From what I can make out, we seem to be in a process of constructing people who need income support to survive as “unworthy” and hence that it is of little concern how they are treated because they “ask for it” (much as has happened with people seeking asylum).
      I think the whole area of income support needs to be a key election issue. I will do what I can, and have distributed this post (and associated Facebook posts) to as many relevant sites, media, and politicians as I can think of.
      I am also aware that members of the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union are active in the area and will do what I can to support their work and encourage others to do likewise.
      I do hope we are able to achieve social and political change before the system does more damage, and certainly before you personally have to endure 10 more years of it. Best wishes for your future, and for all those in similar circumstances. It could, after all, be any of us in difficult times…Joan Beckwith.

  9. In response to this website post, Christiane Barro, political editor at Mojo News (Monash Journalism’s online magazine) expressed interest in speaking to people who have encountered barriers in the income support system, so I put out a call for her on the Facebook page, and am embedding that post here as part of the record of activity around this issue.

  10. Embedding an additional Facebook post about the proposed trial of the cashless welfare card in Geraldton, Western Australia (sent to the page by Sally Farrell), plus a blog post about the card by Keith Davis.

  11. Embedding the Facebook post that promoted this website post to preserve the rich discussion in the comments…Joan Beckwith.

  12. RN says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice if a lot of these job seekers were employed to answer the phones at Centrelink. They would be trained (hence covering the training requirements of being unemployed) and they would have empathy for the callers and would no doubt be proud of their work. It would reduce the unemployment figures and reduce the waiting time on Centrelink phone lines.

    • Sounds like an idea worth pursuing, RN. Once the dust has settled on this post, I am thinking about who I might send it to – politicians (although my past experience is that all I get in response is form letters) and media (unfortunately I lack contacts, my background being as a practitioner and academic rather than in the public domain). Nonetheless, I will do what I can and think your idea is worth putting in front of people making some of the relevant decisions…Joan Beckwith.

      • Kel says:

        I agree especially say with single parent households and carers. I have 2 days a week each 5 hours and looking up to a third where if I could work from home answering phones for Centrelink. Another idea is to employ us as pre-editors for email questions. These can be done at night like when I am sitting on my daughter’s floor at 11pm monitoring her. I could either be a) passing question email on directly to right area for help next day or b) able to respond with a answer or guidence of where to find the form etc they looking for.

        • I gather you are responding to RN’s comment, Kel, and the idea is certainly interesting. Since responding to RN, though, it has occurred to me to wonder whether there could be a form of conflict of interest in being both a worker and a recipient in the same system? Regardless, we need to think creatively, and even if some ideas do fall over for one reason or another, we must be able to get a better system than is currently in operation…Joan Beckwith.

  13. Peter Wendt says:

    This is shocking. I knew that there hangs a massive question mark over Centrelink. Reading these first hand experiences galvanises my perception that this institution does not pursue human services but human oppression. It must be dismantled a.s.a.p., and human services made accountable again. This should be shared by all.

    • As noted to RN, Peter, I am thinking about where to take it from here. Any suggestions would be welcome…Joan Beckwith.

      • Brendan Kelly says:

        The fundamental issue lies not with Centrelink or job providers but with the ideology that drives a government. What is obvious to anyone not deaf, dumb and blind or a card carrying member of the Liberal party is that the philosophy of “free market” “small government” system is that the Government of the day rejects all responsibility to provide services or care for the general population. If you don’t have enough it’s your own fault; you didn’t work hard enough or your parents or their parents, because that’s how they amass their wealth. Did Gina Rinehart, James Packer or Twiggy Forrest start with nothing? Hell, no.
        Even the right wing of the Labor party supported the dismantling of the CES and the onus for finding jobs being sold off to the highest bidder. Please not, I am not grinding an axe for any political party, I am saying that somewhere in the public discourse, many people, persuaded by biased media accept that it is no longer the Government’s role to protect the aged, the ill, the disabled, parents raising children. Nor, it seems, is the education of our young people or providing health facilities for all Australians part of the Government’s role.
        Who do you turn to? The people. Using social media and where possible buying space in print, television and radio media, reach out with the message that we need to get back to a society who cares about each other. Destroy what John Howard created with his “aspirational nation” and his “power of one”, “everybody can be their own boss” ridiculous philosophy . I gave us Skase, Holmes a Court, Alan Bond and a bankrupt nation. We must ecourage everyone to, and I’m not keen on 3 or 4 word slogans, Be Someone Who Cares.

  14. terseyau says:

    Like every service that the government is responsible for it has been pared back until it does not work.

    Then the blame is placed on those that the system was supposed to help.

    I am over these so called politicians.

    • I think many are pretty much disillusioned with where we are at, terseyau, but also somewhat baffled about how to demand, and get, real change that serves the interests of the bulk of the population…Joan Beckwith.

  15. wendy says:

    Thank you for standing up for those who are unfortunate enough to be reliant on Centrelink payments. The particular article you refer to “Nearly 300,000 dole payments…”, made me feel angry when I read it. My son is one of those people who despite medical certificates to support him from a GP, has been suspended three times this year through ERROR of the private provider. As you know well this involves many phone calls (luckily we have a home phone), and trips to private provider and Centrelink. Despite admitting he had not ‘breached’ it remains on his record. He has completed a basic level course, although forbidden to do so by his private provider, and is currently completing a further course at a higher level, again he was forbidden. Only courses owned and run (usually online) by that provider are ever approved. These are lucrative to private provider and useless to the client.

    An issue that concerns me is that the people making these decisions about penalising people, require no qualifications at all. I checked out the largest agency in country and checked job descriptions for the level where staff make these decisions. Qualifications are listed as Working with Children Check (perhaps children applying for their allowance are going to have to comply or be cut off next). The second is ability (note – no mention that you are required) to complete Cert IV in something or other. From anecdotal evidence I believe these workers are paid at lowest rate, that is under $40,000 a year. My son has been continually shifted from agency to agency as they lose contracts, give up contracts. Currently the agency he visits has one employer who is IT. Everyone else left and they either can’t or won’t replace staff. They use clients as free labour, as Work for the Dole placements. So you have a totally untrained person, who is a client rather than an employee with access to sensitive and personal information about their client base. More to point, if there is a vacancy and there clearly is, and you think your client is up to job (which you do if you have him/her doing it) then you should employ them.

    My son refuses to go public with any of his experiences. He says he needs to concentrate on going forward, finishing his course and at same time finding work. I paid for the first course, and on his own he found funding for the 2nd course. This is real vocational training, and he is already attending interviews and feeling confident. The only way he has been able to live is for me to support him (having dole cut regularly for periods of time means it is impossible to pay rent or even regularly put in for expenses). At no point has any of his private providers or Centrelink encouraged him in his efforts, in fact he has been penalised. So I think it is clear that none of this is about trying hard to get people into employment, but to punish them for being unwell, old or unemployed.

    • This is horrifying, and all too believable, Wendy, resonating as it does with everything else I have learnt about the system and the treatment of people within it.
      I fully understand your son’s position on not going public. There is high likelihood of reprisals for doing so. That is why I think the issue needs to be taken up by the broader community.
      Hence, also, there is the need to break through the ‘them versus us’ victim-blaming mindset, fostered by propaganda, that serves the interests of the policy-makers in demonising people on income support and justifying punitive approaches.
      That was the main impetus for this post, but I am now also wondering about where else I can go with the material. I would like to do something more than leave it sit here to be accessed mostly by those who already have some understanding and empathy…Joan Beckwith.

  16. Kat says:

    As one of these unemployed so called “Dole Bludgers”, at 57 and unable to get a job, I decided to start my own charity to help out others like myself. Something many do not know is that, as I am over 55, I am required to do 15 hours a week of volunteer work. My charity is a not-for-profit, but because it is run from my home, I am not able to put it down as my required 15 hours a week. This is wrong in my eyes, if you can run a business from home, (and I see this as my business although I do not make a wage), why can I not use my charity work for my required 15 hours a week? The system is broken, and those on welfare are suffering because of it.

    • Firstly, Kat, it sounds like a great thing you are doing (you don’t give details, but the idea of developing something of value for other people in similar circumstances is inspiring).
      I completely agree it should count as your volunteer work. I guess you have pursued this up the line and asked for an explanation? In writing? It would be interesting to know how it could be explained in any formal sense.
      The system is broken, as you note, and part of the broken-ness is the inflexibility that won’t accommodate creative responses such as yours.
      Also, as punitive systems do, it treats people like aberrant children who can’t be trusted. If you were working in someone else’s registered not-for-profit, your work could presumably count. What would happen if you had someone else working in yours, I wonder? Would it count for them, but not for you?
      Thanks for adding this additional perspective on the system in general, and all the best for getting it working better for yourself…Joan Beckwith.

      • kelflynn says:

        I don’t believe volunteer work counts if it is done from home. I suggested an organisation that wanted volunteers to work from home to someone who was on Centrelink benefits, but apparently it would not have been counted. I would be very interested in supporting a group/movement/campaign to push for change in this area. This is not just the current government’s policy, it’s Labor’s as well. This kind of “blame the victim” is not new, it was around when there was high unemployment during the 1980 & 90s. But the structural disadvantages are worse now that our economy is more “marketised” – the process was only beginning back then.

        • Agree, kelflynn, we have been going downhill for a very long time, but also showing no sign of a turnaround. Are you aware of the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union? They run relevant campaigns and would, I expect, be delighted to have interest and ideas. Here’s a link to their website in case it is useful (they are also running a conference in Melbourne tomorrow, 19 April): http://unemployedworkersunion.com/

  17. Article by Peter Thrupp in “New Matilda” critiquing a program on “A Current Affair” and other negative media representations of people on income support: https://newmatilda.com/2016/04/02/current-affair-digging-unemployed-deeper-hole/

  18. The stories included in this post were originally part of a Facebook post, and that post is embedded here.

    300,000 CENTRELINK PAYMENTS SUSPENDEDAccording to 7NEWS (nothing like a does of MSM) this is because people have been “…

    Posted by 2020socialjustice on Wednesday, April 6, 2016

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