This week unfortunately I’ve had to register with Centrelink as my circumstances are dire and I’m out of work.
Just over a year ago the ‘Single Parenting Pension’ changed to a new system called ‘Newstart Allowance’ thanks to the former government. Why they decided to get rid of it is totally beyond me, however, what I do know is that it screwed me over and as far as I believe pretty much every other single parent that relied on it.
I dealt with it and fortunately I managed without it and actually had a better financial year than I ever had due to working hard with various jobs and managing my money very well.
Now, I’m back having to use the system again but this time it’s different. After today, I now understand…I don’t think I’ll ever understand it actually but I am aware of how the ‘new’ system works and to be honest I feel shock and in disarray.
Firstly I called Centrelink to find out more of what I had to do, as I needed financial help while I look for work, I have no income coming in. I was told I had to apply via the application form online…everything now is online.
I applied online answering various questions and then had to book in an appointment with ‘Employment Plus – Salvation Army’, which is basically a recruitment agency assigned by the government. The next available appointment was the following week and in the meantime I am waiting to be sent a profit and loss form that I need to fill out (due to my Sole Trading history) which I need to upload online before my 14 day application timeframe ends. Mind you, each time I have tried to upload paperwork as required it hasn’t worked and you end up in the office wasting half a day for someone to be free to hand the forms in….anyways.
Today I had my appointment with a really lovely lady who was sympathetic and helpful as best she could be. It was explained to me that I am in band 1, which means I am ‘independently looking’ for work. I am to apply for maximum 10 jobs via proof using a form, which is handed in fortnightly and this will continue for 14 weeks (unless I find work). After this time, I am to return to Employment Plus to check in and will continue to check in once a month for half an hour at a time. After 52 weeks, yes that’s right 52 WEEKS if still unemployed only then will Employment Plus assist me in looking for work.
If we look on Centrelink’s website, the description for the ‘Newstart Allowance’ says,
“Financial help if you are looking for work. It supports you while you do activities that may increase your chances of finding a job.”
What support are they offering me to help increase my chances of finding a job? Bloody nothing!
The lady from Employment Plus advised after explaining to her in confidence that I have been feeling very depressed and desperate that there is another possible option. The lady said I could use this ‘depression’ to get extra assistance by moving me to the next band of 2 which would mean I could get more financial assistance with travel for interviews, clothes to wear to interviews if needed (it’s not) and more importantly assistance in finding work.
To be able to get to this band, I need to have my GP warrant a medical certificate declaring I am ‘depressed’. I then have to bring this certificate back with me to Employment Plus, have an appointment with Centrelink who will book in an evaluation to assess my depression and to bring along any evidence of my depression to help back up my claim.
I left my appointment feeling supported emotionally by this lady who really was sympathetic to my cause and almost disgruntled at the system that she had to abide by but I was quite numb. I soon became quite angry and still now am in shock at this ‘new’ system.
The government complains about ‘bludgers’ and how much people like me are costing the country. There are general folk and many I know have this opinion and are quick to stereotype and label those like me in a similar position as free loaders and are in some minds a waste of space.
There probably are people out there who deserve the labelling and I’ve known a few I can tell you. BUT, I don’t and there are thousands like me who hate that they’re in this position but have no choice.
When I found out today the government has the means and resources to help people like myself to find work but they don’t is astonishing. The fact that there is other agencies like Employment Plus around the country contracted by the government and yet their purpose is not utilised until after a 52 week waiting period is gobsmacking bloody pathetic.
The lovely lady who helped me today is from New Zealand and explained that our system was backwards to her hometown. Their system apparently is that if someone finds himself or herself out of work, they go to these agencies that help them find work prior to actually applying for benefits. This makes sense to me – does it to you? Why can we not adopt the same system? Imagine how much money the country would save and the reduction in unemployment!
As I wait to see if I am approved for the ‘Newstart Allowance’ I pray that I will not require it for long or the ‘assistance’ by Centrelink.
My lovely partner Max found himself in a similar circumstance when trying to find work. At the time he was not a permanent resident and did not qualify for any kind of benefit. In years gone by he could have registered at the CES and they would have helped him (to the beat of their ability) to find work. Not so with the current commercial “employment” agencies. They stated that as he did not qualify for benefits they would not be paid to find him employment. He would be welcome to browse their job boards. The corollary to this is that should he apply for any of those jobs it would not be in the interest of the agency for him to be placed in the role.
The current system seems predicated on the idea that the employment agencies serve as enforcement to punish and police the unemployed. They receive a higher bounty for placing long term uneemployed people in work. It would IMHO be extremely naive to think that this does not affect your chances of being employed through these agencies.
Thanks for your comment Buta and sharing your story. The current system is a mess and causes unnecessarily stress (I’m using my own experience here) and at times panic. There doesn’t seem to be a consistency with their policies, actions, resources etc. I do not trust the job boards particularly associated with government due various reasons but one to share of late is a man who is under investigation for fraud contacted me and so did the government advising me not do anything about the “so called job” he indicated was available. In your partner’s case, it was quite contradictory wasn’t it. Here is someone wanting to find work and do their part, yet they received smacks in the face or rather limitations of being able to do what the government encourages to do. Thanks again for sharing and hoping the system sorts itself out soon…one can dream 🙂 xo
I feel for you Shelly. I gave up trying to get ANY support from Centrelink, as they made me feel absolutely hopeless. I got my treating Psychiatrist (not my GP) to fill out a Medical Certificate to “prove” to them that I am unable to work due to my mental health. Apparently that form isn’t enough proof on it’s own, even for a few months for support, and I’d have to return every month to provide them with an updated version… Doesn’t sound like much to most, but when you’ve been suffering from depression for over 5 years, and have to pay over $300 per Psychiatrist visit, let alone the additional cost of a medical form / report, how on earth do they expect someone with no income to keep that up? Very disheartening. I’ve received nothing from them for the 3 1/2 years that I’ve been separated… it’s tough.
Thanks for sharing Janine and what an ordeal you have gone through. I don’t get the system and have had many WTF moments trying to work out the logic and justification…I’ve failed at this. Let’s hope both of our situations change very soon. xo