It has felt like an eternity since I last wrote a post and the main reason if I am to be brutally honest is that I have/had lost confidence and was not sure what to actually write about. I had given into fear.
I was told a fantastic quote today, “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who conquers the fear” – Nelson Mandela
Today I am brave!
This desire to write has been eating away at me, and the fact I haven’t has caused much angst and frustration towards my abilities and myself. I am not saying I’m a great writer and probably far from it, yet I have developed a love for my blog and I’ve missed it.
After undergoing a traumatic day recently, I felt inspired and strength from within to share my experience and what better way than to write for my blog.
I know that other parents have gone through my ordeal, I am not alone and either are you. I still feel angry, disappointed and completely let down by the Australian government and Centrelink and to give a word…abandoned.
Really the trauma began earlier this year when my ‘preferred’ government party (Labor) changed the single parenting pension to ‘Newstart’. This meant my payments reduced dramatically although I still get Family Tax Benefits. My pension, now Newstart dropped to practically nothing but I did get something, $14 a fortnight and I still maintained my pension, sorry Newstart card. I was not informed that the income threshold would change. Silly me, perhaps I should have researched this, however I trusted our government. Surely if there was information to know, they as in Centrelink would advise us of any changes, right?
I recently noticed the last couple of payments from Centrelink were much higher than they should be. After a couple of lengthy phone calls to try and sort it out, I was advised to go into my local office as the paperwork I had uploaded months ago (like the good girl that I am) was confusing them. I was also told that my Newstart allowance was suspended until the situation was resolved. I’m yet again starting to feel that I am being punished for their mistakes.
Anywho, off I went to the ‘office’ with the forms I had previously uploaded and my taxation assessment notice, which had always been a requirement at the end of the financial year. After waiting two hours my name was finally called. I handed over my paperwork and started to explain the situation when I was cut off mid sentence with this man telling me that I had brought the wrong paperwork and what was required was the tax return that was lodged with the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). I argued this information had never been discussed with me and began to protest at which he replied with a smirk that it is a requirement, as they need to assess my return separately to the ATO. This was when I was told that Centrelink allows different expense claims to the ATO. Again, something else I was not told and I have been a sole trader for quite some time working part-time. By the way, isn’t Centrelink part of the Australian government so why would it be different?
Next came the news that shattered my world.
My Newstart payments will cease and so will the access to a pension card as I am over the threshold.
I could not control my emotions and as I sat there, tears started to pour down my face. I know of some families who had their payments reduced by hundreds of dollars and have hit the poverty line. The income threshold under the single parenting pension was around $44,000 gross. I was told this day that the income threshold for Newstart was different to the Single Parenting Pension, now $37,446.50 before tax, in which I am under $40,000 but over this amount. This is a huge drop for someone earning a low income and quite detrimental.
Personally, my benefit dropped by $180 a fortnight down to $14. The drop in money obviously affected me, however I still had my concession card. For those that do not know, the concession card can be priceless and are given to low-income earners. Some of the benefits include assistance with utility bills, registration, medication, doctor and specialists visits to name just a few, even discounts on certain leisurely activities, which would sometimes not be possible if you had to pay full price.
To make things worse, I was also told I owed Centrelink $1100 due to their dysfunction systems and mistakes. By this stage I was very upset, sobbing quietly yet unable to control the tears. How is someone meant to support their child and themselves with less than $40,000 a year? How are we meant to survive I asked? I was told I am not the only one in a rather condescending tone.
I think what made it worse was the lack of compassion. It was obvious I was distraught and vulnerable yet I was made to feel like just another number, which I guess I was. I felt so alone in that clinical space filled with strangers, my imagined future flashing before my eyes while I sobbed.
Just quietly, Centrelink can get FIRETRUCK!
I will not let Centrelink, The Australian Government or this situation define me and bring me down. I’ve since shed many tears and I am filled with anger that I need to let go. I get annoyed as I, like many other single parents do the right thing. I give the right income estimate, I do what I’m told, and I’m honest and aim to be the best person and Mother possible.
I am a survivor, my son has never gone without, and I will get through this. I am not desperate…yet and I refuse to let our situation become dire. I have much to be grateful for. My best friend pointed out to me that I have wanted to be free of Centrelink due to all the heartache over the years and now maybe this is my time. We shall see…
They do say, a positive comes from a negative. In this case, my recent heartache and experience has allowed me to write again.
Love and light, stay safe and sending snuggles xo
If you are in a similar situation, please make sure you do your research and find out as much information as possible so you don’t get caught out. Not that it would be your fault, yet the Australian Government and Centrelink fail to inform their customers of the full details to changes that they make. Some of these links may help:
Department of Human Services
Continuum Financial Planners
Low Income Health Care Card
I have been a single mum for 17 years and have never relied on Centrelink payments. I can share with you the freedom of knowing only I am responsible for our lives is fantastic as I feel only I am in control of our destiny. You are an educated, intelligent, independent lady. Make the decision to get off Centrelink, work out how you can achieve it – and do it! Believe in yourself, you can do it.