Tag Archives: dsp

How I spent my $20

oh, hai  there. I’m Fiona. You may now know me now as the woman on Q+A with $20 who looked pained at Jim Chalmer’s response to her question about how those on fixed incomes like the disability pension are supposed to make choices between food and medicine (seriously, I better pay that chemist bill as soon as I get this posted – my Webster paks are a lifesaver both literally and metaphorically)… Why are we the ones having to suffer now to keep inflation in check?

My questions and his non-answer:

So, it’s taken me a good couple of days to recover from the trip down to Sydney – got the shuttle bus the ABC organised from Broadmeadow station at 5pm with 20 others, we got there around 7:30, then went through screening, I got handed my question on a card and was told that I was the second question and that like I had spoken to the girl on the phone about, Stan would be asking me followups and she and her chatted about my situation and such a couple of times on the phone in the previous days.

It was a bumpy ride, but to my relief a fellow local Greens member and his mate were also on the bus, so I could chat to them and calm my nerves about the whole process. And we got a photo with our idols in the foyer.

Fiona and Wylie making peach signs with big ted, little ted, jemima and humpty at the abc ultimo studio

We went in around 8pm, I got a microphone attached to me. There was a warm up stand up comic. The questioners were all run through to make sure they got our names right etc, and I was SUPER excited to see that a teacher that I often had in primary school Mrs Turner was there!

I didn’t expect a real answer from Jim, just as I didn’t expect Labor to raise welfare since they walked back their promises and demands that they had in opposition in the lead up to the election they just won. Basically they promised us nothing and we should be grateful for that!

So, back to why you’re here? After my triumphant non-answer getting on Q+A i called home to Bruce to scream into the void and get his reaction and love. Which I got. And a request for burgers on the way home, to which I lol’d “Yeah I can spend my $20 on that!” he laughed and said, don’t worry about it  but then I wanted burgers, and given the rough trip back, chatting with the young liberals and eating lollies and pretzels at dinner, I totally needed those burgers by the time I was back in Tronno at 1am!

So, to all the Daily Mail commenters who commented on my food choices and my fatness, yeah, I had midnight Maccas with that $20 that PureProfile surveys had credited me during the trip down (another DM commenter had suggested them too, don’t worry, I’ve been doing them for 20 years). It was the best Big Mac I’d had in a long time, the chips were salty and fresh, like me, and I needed something in my belly because I needed to be up at 7am to get to my usual Friday appointments of pickup up FoodBank and Ozharvest to share with my sister (and much free bread because there was non in the budget for us) and then to my Antabuse rehab group where we discussed what we like about our sober selves. 20 months sober my friends!

Yeah, I’m fat. And yeah I could exercise more to lose weight, but I’m glad I’m not the bulimic, exercise obsessed skinny girl I once was, 2 hours at the gym a day, running 5kms to quiet her mine. My blood tests are always showing I’m in pretty good health considering, and while I’ve been on seroquel I’ve not been anywhere near skinny. I’m mentally pretty good at the moment, and working on my mental health and life goals, while being a good human being. Looking after myself and my family and friends and being sober and safe. Financially, I’m not making any headway, but I don’t have a credit card to go into debt on, and so long as I can pay my rent and smile, I’ll be okay. Also, so long as the politicians have a food allowance that is five times the daily JobSeeker payment, don’t police our food choices, mmkay?

So, it’s been a big few days. Glad to be home with my boys and love my family, friends and twitter crew to death. Sent Bruce off this morning to work in his little tinny, and I’ve been a good housewife, doing dishes and washing and earning my keep while rolling marbles on Twitch. I also played some Scotty Goes to Centrelink (The Albo Update) earlier, and will probably go another round soon!

The full episode can be seen on the ABC website or YouTube

Please, if you also feel that it’s ridiculous that in Australia people on welfare payments are deliberately kept below the poverty line, sign this petition to parliament to have the rate of all welfare payments raised to above the Henderson Poverty line which is currently $88 a day. The petition is an official parliamentary one so you’ll need to click the verification link in your email when it comes through to complete the process.

May be an image of text that says "signed the petition to #RaiseTheRate to #88aDay because... POOR PEOPLE DESERVE NICE THINGS UINCAPLOYEO AUWU NOINN NOINN Sign and share! auwu.org.au/petition"

Can’t eat resilience – Labor’s Budget had no pleasant surprises

Good morning. Happy Budget Boxing Day, how’s the hangover? There’s not enough water in the world to wash away the fact that people on welfare payments got exactly what was promised and what was expected from Labor’s budget – nothing. A few comments about us being lucky to even be getting the upcoming CPI increases to payments, that cheaper childcare will help somehow, that more free tafe places will help people get into work even though all their other qualifications haven’t. More language about rorts in the NDIS and expected blowouts demonising the wrong people.

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For sure, if I was corporate Fiona from this photo I found last night, I’d be benefitting from the promised 6 months paid parental leave (because I still thought I’d be having kids back then). Any promises around childcare were welcomed as she watched speech pathologists and occupational therapists unable to return to work with the long waiting lists in Canberra daycare. She’d be happy with the reduction in maximum PBS medicine costs since she was working and didn’t have a health care card, Her partner had property and she was aspirational. But then, reality took hold and we are where we are now.

I remember getting the small tax cuts back in Howard’s final years. $10 here and there.  Working in community services and health, we all lamented that they should keep the money and invest it in health and education, but we dutifully spend it on latte’s at Coolo.

Labor never promised any raises to Centrelink payments, in fact they backtracked from any talk about them from the 2019 election thinking that the voters didn’t like them pormising anything good. They walked them back to we’ll have a review and maybe look at a real raise in 2024. Which is about when they project real wages to start going up in relation to inflation. In the meantime? We get to remember Labor’s greatest complaints about the LNP and how none of them could ever survive on JobSeeker, but there’s literally nothing in the budget for those on payments. Correct me if I’m wrong, PLEASE correct me if I’m wrong!

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These photos? They’re from a blogger event in Sydney in 2012. It was for Kleenex Cottonelle and we broke pintrest because we were trying to pin too many things at once. A wonderful greenwashing promo. That was when i was an Aunty blogger, or a food blogger, depending on who was paying for drinks. I’m wearing the last pair of glasses I bought from a shop in Australia, they set me back $700. $200 for the frames, $500 for the lenses, and from then on it was Chinese online glasses all the way.

I dug out these pics because I got a bursary to attend the Black Dog Institute‘s Summit on Self-Harm in Sydney on November 10 as a person with lived experience of self harm and the mental health system. It’s at Doltone House, the same venue as the Contonlle event, I thought it looked familiar when I was planning the early morning train trip down! I’m really really excited! It’s going to be a huge day, with a 7.30am start, so, a snooze on the 4.51am train down and coffee on arrival please and thankyou! If I recall correctly it was well catered, so I hope they still are!

So, now to plan my days around having the spoons for the summit, for taking it in, for networking and holding conversation with some amazing researchers! The program looks great!

But what do I wear???

Raise the Rate for Good – Poverty is a Political Choice #RaiseTheRateforGood

Banner for the National Day of Action

Raise the rate for good National day of Action Wed 27 April 2022

So, as I’m typing this, I’m overly full of ice creams because  I was just on the phone to Centrelink trying to sort out the last of the financial paperwork they need for my DSP application. I’d sent through my partner’s tax return SUMMARY, but they needed the full thing, and then I spent time trying to screenshot it off the ato site because that seemed to be the easiest way? Ugh, who knows? She’ll get back to me if she needs more. It’s been a process, hasn’t it? From applying in September, to the December rejection, to getting the medical approval last month and now getting all the financial information together to prove that my partner shouldn’t be supporting me.

Abolish the partner income test, mmmkay?

But first what we’re here to do is raise our voices together and call for a raise of the JobSeeker payment and all other payments to ensure recipients are not struggling below the poverty line.

my jobseeker payment

I’m currently, as I type this, still on JobSeeker, which as the partner rate is a grand total of $42.59 a day. $52.40 a day including rent assistance. So that’s less than the $46 a day bandied around, because they anticipate you need less money if you’re in a couple, and while yeah, there’s some shared expenses, I really don’t think it’s justified to halve the pharmaceutical allowance since I have a partner. We can’t share meds, you know? $3.10 a fortnight is laughable when you see my pharmacy bills each month.

chemist bill

Hilarious.

When (I say when) I get converted over the DSP, I’ve calculated I’ll be getting $53 a day. I assume I’ll be getting the same rent assistance, so it’ll be $63 including rent assistance. Score.

I use sarcasm as a defence mechanism.

The amount it should be raise to is up for discussion, but many agree that the $88 a day rate that puts the payment at the Henderson Poverty Line would be a great point. I know the Greens are promising this, however Labor has disappointed all by saying they have no plans to raise the rate of JobSeeker, and no plans yet to even review it, citing the “raise” given by the LNP when they took away the Covid supplement as seemingly enough by their standards.

poverty line chart vs jobseeker payment

 

I’ve been on JobSeeker with no obligations to look for jobs for a couple of years now. Cantrelink have acknowledged repeatedly that I’m not well enough to look for or maintain employment  but there is not financial acknowledgement of that for so many. I’m finally getting DSP, but it was a fight. I could easily have taken the rejection in December and been on rolling medical certificates once more.

The rate of welfare payments needs to be liveable across the board, as the barriers to work are real for so many, and even once people DO get work, they’re still technically below the poverty line at the point they earn too much to receive JobSeeker. How shit is that?

Also, as I’m confirmed not to be able to supplement my income with work, then the argument that the payment is low as an incentive to work is more than ridiculous. And does not wash at all for how low the Disability Support Pension is with the rate of inflation and cost of living pressures ballooning in recent years. Once I get DSP my payment will be finally more than the total rent my partner and I pay, so there’s that?

Raise the rate. Of all payments. Stop giving us excuses as to why people should suffer and struggle to meet their basic needs. Stop making us beg, because people are over begging and might need to take a bit more direct action.

Back to face to face therapy – also don’t scare me like that Centrelink!

I did it! Made it into town, did my first face to face psych session in 6 months, first time I’d seen this therapist in person since the assessment 18 months ago, and yeah, did it.

Verrrrrrry zonked this afternoon, but let’s see what I remember of the day and I get going.

Didn’t sleep great, that’s a little expected, got up after waking a few times a bit after 700 and made coffees. Sipped on that, did the breakfast and meds thing. Now I’m wondering whether it was today I made Bruce toast with his second coffee? I think so, the bread was soft. Unless that was last night? Blur I tells ya, there wouldn’t have been coffee though last night, so I think it was this morning.

Drove to the station, walked down the stairs as the earlier train pulled in, so hopped on that.

Two stations in it clicked that I was meant to have a mask on. Whoops.

Made it to Newcastle interchange. Most of the toilets were closed off, but I didn’t actually need to go and the tram was there so I caught it to Crown street to walk through the mall and see how it was going.

Took some pictures of the changes, like to the old David jones building. Bought some cards.

Sat outside the post office, wrote in a card for my old OT whos report I think got me over the line for DSP. Then walked up the hill to the hospital.

Reloaded my vaccination certificate and the service NSW app. My third vax still isn’t on Medicare, I guess I should ask the chemist about that…

Went in, mask on. Receptionist – I said hi and said who I was, she wounded familiar from the phone. Some of the mental health receptionists have the best manner. Very mum-like but businessy enough. Some suck. This one rules. She makes me feel like my calls aren’t annoying . Always good for those of us with rejection issues.

Oh speaking of rejection issues, starting to feel a little like I have to come up with more problems so that my therapist doesn’t think I’m doing too well and says I don’t need to continue with the service. I mean it’s nice not to be crazy erratic, but I do have things to work on and I’m just getting into this doing things again.

So into the session. OMG so sweaty. Glasses fogging up. Had the window and outside door (to the balcony, old hospital all that) open for covid airflow reasons. but I’m this hot mess of SWEAT.

At one point he asked how I was inside, and honestly I wasn’t a mess inside, it was all outside for once. Still masking to high heaven. Wonder if that’s easier with actual masks or not. Time will tell. I don’t really try too hard with my short appointments at the Mater to get my antabuse, they see me as I come that day for that few minutes. And keeping coherent for 5 minutes is easy. But a 50 minute psyc session? Yeah I can do it on the computer. Easy. But I don’t want to. I want to drop the mask and therapy properly. I guess raising masking vs opposite action will be something I bring to the agenda next week. I need to bring more stuff so why not that? Also works into my working up to raising whether I’m autistic. As will telling him about the yellow ladybugs autism and adhd conference in June.

I know I should do it, at least actually get a professional’s input. Especially while have this access. But I’m scared he’ll think I’m so off target or I’m making stuff up or something. I don’t know. I still have to build that trust I guess.

He brought up the reminder that we were going to talk more about work options, I asked if I told him about my DSP approval, he said I hadn’t but he was glad I got it even though his report wasn’t helpful because he’s so set on DBT being amazing and me being a good candidate for change.

Which brings me to Centrelink and them calling me to upset me on the train on the way home.

As I wrote on FB to my sister

I have to provide bruce’s profit and loss statements, but they called me to tell me on the phone on the train on the way home today and it was a shock and I cried and didn’t get all the info and she said to call them back later if I wanted to check, but yeah. I got an answer on twitter though and theree’s a letting in the mail I can wait for

So yeah, have to do his income side of things. When the lady said why she was calling she said she was assessing my DSP claim,, and I was very shocked and very much thinking it was god to go. It took a few times to explain to me it was to approve me eligibility on the income side – ie whether Bruce should be my keeper because partner income and asset test crap. The phone dropped out in the Cardiff tunnel too which didn’t help. And THEN she said to just call back and she’d made a note on the file of what forms to complete and they could tell me again, and so i did after lunch and I wasn’t able to verify my identity with my voice and they weren’t understanding my responses and maybe I wasn’t that coherent by then? but I asked for operator then was told they were busy and to do it online and they hung up.

Thankfully I got an answer to my cries on Twitter. God I love the social media teams on there.

So I’m more than done.

I played Animal crossing and wore my Hello Kitty hat and shoes that came with teh Amiibo cards Yieki gave me. And I made pasta for dinner.

And I’m sooooooo tired.

My DSP was approved (aka why JobSeeker is not a safety net)

You’ve probably heard me buzzing about on Twitter about how I received a positive outcome on having my DSP rejection reviewed. I’m getting DSP baby! I got the call at 5.15pm yesterday, smack on 49 days since the review letter said I’d be getting the decision in that timeframe. A phone call from an actual person too! I guess unlike a rejection I won’t yell at her. I squealed a little I think. A friend asked if I cried, but yeah not yet, just relieved to have it approved.

I’ll probably (and already have) go through some guilty feelings like I don’t deserve it (I do) and I’m giving up (I’m not) but yeah, riding high for now! Just sceptically keeping an eye on myGov to make sure they change it over, oh and that I get my backpay.

Some people (like my psychologist) have “checked in” to make sure that getting disability doesn’t mean I’ll be giving up on getting back to work one day. For those people, I reassure them that being on DSP won’t make me stop wanting to get back into paid work, or unpaid work using my many skills, and will in face HELP me to get back into that state. How so?, you may ask, if you’re unfamiliar with how being on the lower JobSeeker payment and having mutual obligations actually creates MORE of a barrier to gaining and maintaining employment, particularly for someone with a chronic illness that fluctuates and is exacerbated by the whole process…

I had started going on a rant about Work for the Dole, but having never done it all I can truly say about THAT is thank flying spaghetti monster that I’ve never had to. If you’ve done it, you might want to help the Antipoverty Centre in its campaign to Abolish work for the Dole by contributing to their survey of WFTD experiences or if you have the means, contribute financially to the GoFundMe.

So, why am I “completely stoked” to have been approved for DSP and not be on JobSeeker? What’s the difference, aside from the payment amount (both of which are below the poverty line and need to be lifted, but JobSeeker much more so)?

The obvious first one would be that I do no have to apply for jobs or complete those mutual obligations like studying or going to meetings or volunteer work in order to get my payment each fortnight. If I was under 35, I could still have mutual obligations though for DSP, which is a whole other kettle of fish. As we see by story after story , Disability employment services are a very expensive way to police people with acknowledge disabilities and illnesses that impact their ability to find and keep work. Generally you get sent to a DES provider rather than a regular mainstream JobActive provider after you’ve submitted medical certificates to Centrelink to get some time off from your mutual obligations. Because you’re more unwell that usual. At some point the exemption doesn’t get approved, because your GP ticked the wrong box, or said it was a permanent condition, and you go through an employment services assessment (Esat). This is a chat over the phone with a Centrelink-employed health work like and Occupational Therapist, and they determine how many hours a week you should be able to work based on this interview. This is given as a range, from 0-7 hours where you’re basically given an extended mutual obligations exemption for up to six months with regular check in appointments to make sure you’re still alive, to 8-15 or 16-30 hours, in which case you’re referred to a Disability Employment Service, who we’d all like to think specialises in getting disabled people into SUITABLE employment or study and has some knowledge or education around disabilities, illnesses and workplace supports.

(I hear some of you cry-laughing, and I can just tell you’ve been through DES at some point. The rest of you stick with me?)

So, if I have employment prospects, why isn’t going to a DES with JobSeeker allowance going to be helpful? Why won’t this be a suitable way to gain and maintain employment?

Disability services company pocketed nearly $1m for barista course lacking basic equipment, inquiry hears

Let me paint a picture of what it’s like looking for work with a mental illness (however I’m sure similar principals apply with any disability, particularly as most people fluctuate in their day-to-day ability to perform to the standards of the world without an illness…)

Hi, I’m Fiona. I have borderline personality disorder, I have a degree in speech pathology but I haven’t worked in the area in 8 years and I no longer have registration. I also have postgraduate qualifications in inclusive education. I stopped working as a speech pathologist due to my mental illness and its impact on my ability to be a reliable worker. When I’m not doing well, my planning and organisational skills go out the window. I become very unreliable. I’m erratic. I’m not going to outline everything here, but I’m not a good employee. Maybe I still show up to work, but it’s very hard to concentrate or to be around people long enough to get the work done. I may have started having problems with alcohol or self harm again. I may just head to Sydney on a whim and call in sick. I may show up work but not be in the condition to work, function, or be responsible for others safety let alone my own.

I’ve had many lots of therapy in the last 20 years. Psychology focussing on anxiety, CBT, medication, throwing myself into exercise (running 5km every morning DOES actually help with my anxiety), a 2 year block of weekly therapy that was thankfully covered by the government doing the conversational model. At the end of that last block I was working with a DES provider to try to get into some sort of work. We went with Disability Support/ carer work.

This DES provider worked with me to work towards getting a job. But there was always the threat of being cut off from payments if I didn’t tick the right boxes, submit the right forms. That does wonders for anxiety filled perfectionists with a ticking mental health problem that’s wanting to take you down.

I figured I could do volunteer work, at a special school, get my confidence up, get me some references. That all worked nicely. Also I got to use my speechie skills in classrooms again which was actually a very good use of my time.

By that stage I’d already been applying for jobs for about a year (I did interviews for so many Speech pathology jobs, locally, in Tamworth, Sydney, Bowral, Canberra, by phone to Albury and Broken Hill, and ones in the Northern Territory and the Pilbara that came with contracts and sign on bonuses. Some went okay, but I was never the top candidate, or some were uncomfortable with the gap in work that wasn’t due to having kids, a couple of interviews I ran out of in tears, and at least two I hung up the phone on. it got harder and hander and I was relieved to be told it was okay to stop trying for those)

But we went all in on the disability support jobs. Applied for all the companies in town, had a few interviews, I actually REALLY liked the group interview process for one, and managed to show off my knowledge and skills in that environment, only to shake my way through the individual one. I got to the point of doing a medical with them, but I had to do a couple of rounds of that to show my mental health was good enough… I got offered a different position elsewhere and took that one on. Casual. It was casual for a year, but I basically had as much work as I wanted.

I probably should have been getting post placement support from the DES provider but I don’t recall hearing from them again.

Alright, so I had a job. For four years. We won’t go into the process of losing that job, but it was mental health, alcohol misuse, and a WHOLE bunch of anxiety. That employer was so supportive to keep me on, and we tried to work with each other to make it happen, while I was accessing therapy and support, but it wasn’t working for me at that time, and I really feel like I let them down, but then I also was letting myself down by continuing to pretend I was okay.

Covid has been a bit of a blessing for me. The coronavirus supplement, having mutual obligations suspended, being able to access services by telehealth, all a blessing in disguise. I’ve had a wonderful GP who was willing to write me medical certificates. And I’ve answered to phone calls and done the reporting to Centrelink as they wanted, and not really had any way to step out of line. This would have continued to mid-year when I was going to be reassessed for job capacity and would have probably returned to the DES system with a 15 hour a week capacity assessment, and have to start working with the requirements again.

I’m happy to look for work when I’m ready. Not now. Now I’m not ready, I’m still doing hours of therapy each week, I still am working on meeting my daily standards as a human being. But I’d like to look for work (paid or unpaid) that uses my skills and interests and now this can happen in my own time rather than following the schedule the DES provider has to work under to meet their KPIs.

Currently I’m required to answer the occasional phone call, and to report mine and my partners income each fortnight in order to get paid. I’m pretty reliable at doing that, though I have been late on the reporting at lease once which meant waiting another day for my JobSeeker payment to land. My fault, but I forgot due to being overwhelmed with other aspects of dealing with existing with a mental illness, and did not treat myself kindly for the mistake. I’m my harshest critic…

I’ve been doing well in therapy, only needing to take a step back when I had Covid myself. I still made it to the group sessions by telehealth, but cancelled a couple of the individual ones as I wouldn’t be able to participate properly even by teams. So, I’m pleased with that , and myself.

I get scared when my psych brings up work and trying to come up with goals around that. I have some vague notions of what I might like to do if I can get myself able to work to a certain standard with the right supports from the employer and my other supports to stay well while I’m there.

Getting DSP means I can do this in my own way, in my own time. I have a little extra money each week. I don’t have the threat of having it cut off for failing to meet a target set by someone paid by the government to police me. I CAN choose to try getting a DES to support me, and there’s a “couple of good ones” in my area that I’m probably going to talk to. But I won’t be with one not of my choosing. I won’t have to do anything to make up hours that isn’t in my interests or that doesn’t help me with my skills or confidence. I can apply for as little or as few jobs that interest me. I can quit a job that isn’t working out and not face suspension of my payment. I have more leeway in terms of how much I can work without my payments going down or being stopped because I’ve been going well for a longer time. More of a safety net to fall back to if pushing myself starts doing more harm than good. I’m not there to meet someone else’s quotas, for a business to refer me to their education wing for them to earn a bonus and for me to study something meaningless outside my cares or my skill level.

There’s always this threat on JobSeeker that you’re going to do the wrong thing, knowingly or unknowingly, and be cut off from your only (woefully low) source of income because computer says no.

I know it’s not all rose coloured glasses from here, but being on DSP is a weight off. A chance to be a little free-er, to be able to take more time to work on myself, being and doing the things I want to, not being chewed up by a machine that’s not working in my best interests.