Tag Archives: jobseeker

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.

My Election Wishlist

scene from animal crossing

Welfare payments above the poverty line – I think we were all more than a little distressed to say the least when Labor revealed they had no plans to promise any rise in JobSeeker or other Centrelink-administered payments this election. It’s even worse seeing them fall back on the small raise the libs granted us when the covid supplement was removed and try to take some sort of credit for it. I did some maths, including the rent assistance, I’ll be getting $63 a day on the Disability Support Pension when it switches over (yes, my partner finally did his paperwork for it to show he’s not my financial keeper) when my application finally gets properly approved. Living it up. I mean it’s better than the $42 a day ($52/day or $733.70 fn, including $137.40 rent assistance for the $790 rent we pay) I’m getting currently, and there won’t be mutual obligations, but this is the pension that acknowledges that I’m not really capable of regular paid employment and it kinds should be at a rate that at least lets us scrape by, and not continuously fall behind?

Some actual steps towards slowing climate change. Like not opening new coal and gas projects or subsidising the old ones. Putting money into renewable tech and jobs and batteries. Something about realising that the extreme weather events are caused by our love of destroying the planet, and perhaps we should do something about it? I mean it’s not too late, despite how depressing it gets. But we do have to act soon. And stop making things worse :/

Something to be done about the huge out of pocket costs that stop people from accessing the healthcare they need. It’s all well and good to say there’s Medicare rebates for healthcare, but what’s the point if the waitlists are excessively long or you can’t afford the upfront amount? The rebates need to be more too, because even if we do find a way to get the upfront payments for out of pocket up front costs, there’s only so long that can be sustained for.

To be more specific – You can currently access 20 rebateable psychology (or mental health OT/social work) through the “Better Access” program. That might go back to ten soon, it might not. But it’s so hard to firstly find a clinician to see you, and they you’re up for $200+ per session before the rebate that’s about half that. We’re currently trying to find someone for my niece to see, but it’s even harder to find someone for kids, especially outside the NDIS. Before I went into the current public program I’m doing DBT through, I was seeing a mental health Occupational Therapist under the scheme after finding most psychologists to have at least a 6 month wait. And this is in Newcastle, good luck if you’re in a smaller centre.

Access to free assessments in order to access NDIS and DSP and any other gatekept government program. It’s wrong that you have to be able to afford the assessments in order to get into these programs that should be available to all who need them. Also, a return to needs-based rather than diagnosis based access. Back to looking at a person’s needs and goals and working to support them with that. Disabled people have goals you know, and don’t just want to subsist.

Housing. The rental market is fucked in this country. We need a huge spend on PUBLIC housing, that’s owned by the government and leased to anyone who needs it. Guess what, that provides jobs too! Rental assistance is bullshit, and the quality of housing is slipping towards being unsafe for tenants as it’s not safe to complain or ask for repairs as there’s someone else waiting if they kick you out. I don’t know the answers. But housing is a mess.

I’m tired, and there’s still a month to go.

What’s on your Wishlist this election?

Well, Labor, that was disappointing

I seriously wasn’t expecting to be too surprised by Labor announcing something magical like the Greens #88aDay, but I was expecting SOME sort of commitment to raise the rate of jobseeker or AT LEAST COMMIT TO A REVIEW.

but, no, Andrew Leigh confirmed it today to ACOSS that they won’t commit to raise JobSeeker and not even to review it, which is the promise they brought to the 2019 election.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/apr/12/labor-wont-commit-to-an-increase-in-the-jobseeker-payment

I’m counting my blessings to have been approved for DSP, but I’m still waiting on my partner to get his last tax return in and upload other profit and loss statements and his bank statement and we really need to scrap the partner income test too, because while I have a partner who is doing this for me, me getting a basic income coming through as a mentally ill woman who now is confirmed by Centrelink’s high bar to be disabled enough to not look for work, I shouldn’t now be at the whims of my partner, who is wonderful, but aren’t they all until I get really unwell, shit hits the fan, I’m hell to live with and he can’t uphold his part of the deal.

I’m not physically dependent on him for care, unlike the women who reported to the Disability Royal commission how their partner became their carer and they became dependent on them for finances, or care, for accommodation, for everything, and so weren’t able to report abuse because that would also take away their carer. Or in the case of mentally ill women it gets so quickly turned back onto them and you find yourself carted off to the hospital because you’ve called the police to try to find safety.

Those stories are harrowing and I don’t want to be that woman, I don’t see myself becoming that woman, but I want a social financial safety net so women(and men) who are in an unhealthy or abusing relationship can get out, be financially independent, can sustain themselves and their dependents, and not have been cut off because their partner earns too much and they won’t give you a cent, or you do get DSP or JobSeeker (at the lower partner rates so are down $50-$200 a fortnight because your partner should be looking after you). $40 a day at partner rate isn’t enough on JobSeeker for anyone, let alone in a crisis. $88 might mean the ability to keep up to date with bills, to have some savings, to at least not be laughed out the door when your payment including rent assistance is less than rent.

Labor, you’ve dropped the ball and those of us on welfare payments are scared and angry and upset and really hope you come up with something more optimistic for us in the next 40 days.

Please? I hate to beg, but this is where I am. Give us hope.

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.