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Your views: voices from the Centrelink welfare system

Reader contributions

Today, InDaily publishes a special Your views, compiled from just some of the responses to our recent stories on the nation’s welfare system. Struggling, marginalised, frightened, desperate – readers just want to be heard.

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My biggest wish for the government is please stop bashing the jobseekers.

I was forced on Centrelink due to a workplace accident. My injury sends future employers running. I’m 57 and worked most my life in education. I’ve even been told my age is a hindrance and qualifications too high!

On $550 per fortnight, my furnishings got sold off, pieces by piece. My lifetime furnishings I’d bought left me bit by bit. It hurt. I had to eat. A square meal became stews, cheap cuts, soups, vegetables. My bills a priority. My medication only if money allowed. 

Covid bonus. I felt like I’d won lotto, my medications easier to buy. Bills paid, full tank – something my car never had. Heater, ah yes, the luxury this winter. My phone bills paid in full, instead of $10 here, $5 there.

I’m thankful, but we realistically need help to permanently increase the JobSeeker payment. 

Let me ask you, Scott Morrison; could you live on JobSeeker?

We are pushed further down all the time. Mental health, dental work, budget cuts to agencies that help the system all count too.

We are not all bludgers. We don’t all see it as a stay at home payment, we see it as a blessing. – Deborah Shaw

No words can show the pain my son and I have suffered on Newstart/JobSeeker before the added supplement. 

I can buy my son red meat or fruit, without saying only one piece. 

I was able to give him a proper birthday present. I’ve been able to pay my bills; actually paying them without going without, or having power cut off.

I can get his hair cut, and purchase vegetables weekly and salad for his lunches, instead of a $2 bag of chips. 

We eat properly at night. I’ve been able to buy my medicine every month for depression. I can feel worthy instead of worthless. 

We are told there’s jobs but this isn’t true for some. The average single mother doesn’t have family to look after the children after school or weekends or before school. 

Some of us chase jobs we can actually do, without sacrificing our children being left at home alone. 

The extra money gives us an opportunity to employ a baby sitter so we can go out to work. – Name supplied

I was made redundant on July 10, and have not seen a red penny in support.

I will not see my first (reduced) payment until October 15.

This is due to the meagre redundancy ($18,000) I received, of which a decent chunk went to paying down debt and trying to manoeuvre myself into a better financial position in order to get through and past this corona nightmare.

I have tried three times to have my claim reassessed, only to be either ignored or told things like “The last person didn’t process it properly”… which from where I’m standing seem like fairly underhanded delay tactics.

I’ve always worked in the hospitality industry, I’m 49, and for me prospects seem fairly grim.

I’m not looking for free money, I’m just looking for meaningful support that doesn’t drive me to the poverty line, only to trap me in a poverty cycle.

I’ve tried to do the right thing all the way and feel like I’m being punished for trying to to do the right thing. I’m sure I’m not alone. James O’Connor

We aged pensioners also need an increase in our pension payment. Every item has gone up; meat, groceries, vegetables and rent.

But not our pension. We too badly need an increase in our pension payment. – Robyn Parker

I am on the Disability Support Pension and currently only receive $735 per fortnight. Why so low?

I am paying a mortgage and have body corporate fees. Centrelink will pay you $136 towards rent, but nothing for mortgage or body corporate fees.

So they took away my rental assistance and I had to borrow $1,300 in April to help me move, still paying that back to Centrelink.

All Centrelink recipients should receive the $1500 per fortnight. If I had gone into a retirement village they pay something towards your accommodation. Or if I lived on a boat.

The stress of living in extreme poverty is awful. – Vicki Cooper

I am on JobSeeker. Although I would love to work, I’m apparently “past my use by date” according to employers who often tell me that I “don’t fit their demographic”.

The increase we have had since the coronavirus supplement was introduced has been a godsend. I no longer have to scrimp on my food and bills and I’ve actually been able to afford a proper haircut.

Although I think that doubling the original JobSeeker was a bit unnecessary, it did show how far below the poverty line we really are. I think that trying to live on $275 p.w is just plain cruel. 

I understand that the idea is to get people back to work, but to make them feel like substandard humans is not the way to go. – Robyn Mitchell

Not only families but single men and women on JobSeeker cannot live on $40 per day.

Since the virus supplement, many people have been able to fix their cars or buy a reliable one in order to get around to look for work. They have been able to buy respectable clothing and shoes and fill their pantry with food and cleaning products. They have had the opportunity to live a normal healthy  life.

Jobseeker supplement has to stay. – Sharon Hayes

It’s really hard at these times, especially if you have special needs children. Everybody should be treated equally during these times.

We need less argument and more agreements which will work both ways for everybody. Some people don’t understand how much people on pension are grateful for a few extra dollars to stock up on on food or to buy a piece of warm clothing for themselves or their children. – Jenny Stubbo

I find myself in the position of great stress. When my son turns six, I go from parenting payment to JobSeeker. The $250 a fortnight loss and family A and B (benefit)  loss as well is a slap in the face, at a time when more money is needed for books, uniforms, excursions,school fees.

I worry my income is going to be a negative influence in his education and what effects that will have for his life. Poverty breeds poverty.

I suffered an injury whilst in labour which has left me too disabled to work says my doctor, but not enough to get a DSP due to the harshness of the criteria. This government needs to live my life for a month and see the difficult decisions I have to make about what gets paid and what doesn’t.

I’m on DSP and working part time. I’m permitted to earn $178 per fortnight before the $0.50 reduction comes in; that’s $89 a week or less than one three-hour shift.

The government has done nothing to support DSP recipients other than the two stimulus payments. That leaves DSP recipients worse off than JobSeeker recipients who now get more money and can work more hours before it affects their payments.

Our cost of living is continually rising but DSP, Aged and Carer recipients have been kicked to the gutter and left to starve by the government. – Rhonda Maclean

I am on Carer’s (allowance) for my daughter. My son is on youth allowance and  he is a severe asthmatic. We have had a rough year living in emergency housing, now in community housing.

I’m grateful that my son gets the extra $550 a fortnight. He is able to pay for his medication, some of which is not on PBS. He is able to help me with the cost of living, otherwise I would still be on struggle street, especially after losing my job late last year. – Name supplied

I was a robo-debt recipient. Centrelink has a lot to answer for.

I’ve been paid back part, but not all. Now they taking more out of my family tax for a debt I know nothing about. It wasn’t there last year. Now shows up in MyGov last few weeks. I hate them.

I’m broken. I just want to run. They screw with my head. I can’t deal anymore. I have three kids. But I’m exhausted. – Name supplied

When I had my Centrelink one-on-one meeting three weeks ago. I was informed by the clerk going through my paperwork that Centrelink weren’t  aware that I was married, and because of this we may have to pay back some or all of the approximately 13 grand that I have been paid in JobSeeker payments since March.

When I questioned this, the clerk explained that when thousands of people were trying to get their payments sorted online, there was nothing written in the online information pertaining to whether I was married or single.

Because of this, we should be able to refuse to repay any of the money we have received as this is a Centrelink glitch and therefore unfair and not our fault. Brad Beckett

I haven’t received anything (robo-debt refund) as yet. I received the letter stating I was part of it all. And now nothing?

Very frustrating, as it caused me so much stress repaying it as a single mum. – Ali Chapman

What about the people that got debts in 2014 for the same thing?

I am one of those people. I have had to pay over $4000. This has taken a toll on my health and you can’t fight against it because Centrelink says they don’t keep paperwork for that long. – Shereden Anderson

My partner had been sent a letter form the Australian government regarding robodebt, advising that she was part of it and that she could “opt out” of the upcoming court case and class action against the federal government; a tactic that I found to be pretty sneaky and underhanded by a government that has been found to be acting unlawfully over this matter, looking to get out of paying all that were entitled to a refund.

She is yet to be paid back the $9000 and is growing concerned that this will result in her not being paid at all.

She is loathe to contact Centrelink again as they “treat her like a criminal” and are just generally rude when she calls, creating anxiety in her and causing her even more discomfort about this matter.

What we want to know is, firstly, is she going to be paid back the money or not? Secondly, when will that happen if she is to be paid? Finally, if she is not part of this why would she have been sent the letter to advise her in the first place?

We have made some assumptions base on the information that was sent to her and expected that she would have been among those paid by now, but to have no information is as bad as the initial situation when we were paying it back.

It all seems a little strange that the government is claiming to have paid $545m of the $721m and she has not received anything, notification, action or otherwise, so she is left in limbo.

Not sure if you can help, but this is hard to watch when the person you love is having to deal with this and still manage two children and a full-time job without knowing what to do about it.

The ambiguity of this should have been addressed as quick as the matter itself. – Name supplied

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