Centrelink supports…REALLY?

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.

WTF???!!!

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.

A blast from the past

I’ve slowly been going through odds bits and pieces and found a couple of poems that I have written when I was younger. I’m kicking myself for not keeping copies of all of my poems I have written over time as there were many and all with significance.

I pledge as a promise to myself that poetry is something I will revisit again…

The one I am about to share with you was for an old love. It’s quite interesting looking at the words I have used and the motions I have questioned. It would be interesting to see how I would write about a love today…if I were in love.

I like to give as it makes me feel good
I like to love the way everyone should.
I like to feel alive and go with the flowI like to be wild when I can and let myself go.

I’d like to know the world’s a safe place
and keep a smile without saving face.
I’d like to see happiness with all around
while keeping both feet on the ground.

I’d like to feel love, the way I give out
I’d like to feel respected and feel no doubt.I’d like to feel secure with the world and myself
while feeling loved and full of wealth.

I’d like to know that I can trust
I’d like to communicate as that’s a must.
I’d like to associate with all of his lifeI’d like to feel all of this without having to be his wife.

I’d like him to know this and to understand
and to know it’s not that bad for a woman to love a man.
I’d like ot be happy just happy with me
while being happy with him and for him to love thee.

Intention Vs Reality

The intention was to document the trip of a lifetime.

A journey I had planned and saved so long for.  I wanted to write about the holiday for my own benefit, but I also had the intent to blog about the experience of travelling and exploring different cultures with a teenager.  The intention was to share it all with you…

The reality is obviously this didn’t happen. We’ve been home now just under two weeks and here I am writing to you for the first time before we actually left.

The reality was that we had issues with Wi-Fi and the Internet and gaining access to these via the laptop whilst overseas. I also had trouble with accessing the photos taken from our new camera due to the Wi-Fi problem and the two, the photos and the story seemed the perfect marriage, one would not work without the other.

So now, my intention hasn’t changed and I still intend to share our journey with you and also some of my tips on travelling with a teenager, yet the format will be different to how I first imagined due to the reality of then and now.

My reality now is time.  We’ve returned quite exhausted as it was a full on three weeks of adventure with very little R&R time thrown in. I’m currently searching for permanent and extra work (which ever comes first) as well as doing what work I have, trying to get my son back into routine and the normal parenting duties, being there for my beautiful Nan one day a week plus, a few curve balls thrown in to make it more interesting.

‘Intention’ and ‘Reality’ can work together, it’s working out the best way how. This has been a great lesson for me.

My intent is to write regularly and the reality is this can happen!

Love, Light, and Snuggles xo

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To say I am proud is an understatement!

It’s nearly here, two days in fact until we embark on a trip of lifetime. At first I thought it had been three years in the making, yet recently I realised it’s actually been 13 years of a dream that is about to come true.

The dream and desire to travel with my son was within me from the moment he took his first breath. I fell pregnant not too long after returning home from a European backpacking adventure in which I was craving to go back (the travel bug had hit me hard), I was limited. Well, so I thought, but only three months after he was born, we flew over to the UK and again when he was three to the US courtesy of my Dad. He has no memory on this. I always could envision travelling with him but for many years I thought this was impossible.

As many single parents would know, the thought of any kind of holiday, let alone one overseas seemed out of reach…until now.

For years I have felt envious of my friends going away on their annual holidays, buying or renovating their homes, purchasing new cars and living a life that I have not been able to do…as such. I would not take any of this away from then nor do I begrudge them – I’m thrilled when I hear of their happiness.  I have just had different circumstances.

It was only three Christmas’s ago that I had to reach out to The Salvation Army for help as I was struggling to pay bills. Since then, there has been a shift in circumstances and I am more financial now than ever before. It is not because I am making fabulous money or that my work ethics have changed. I think it is because I have learned to budget well, I’ve worked bloody hard (mind you, I always have), and mainly, I have changed my attitude. I had a goal and I made a plan to achieve it.

Working various jobs at the same time, budgeting, planning, and turning 40 (beautiful gifts from my family helped tremendously) I am now about to make a dream come true and go on a holiday, overseas, visiting three countries (four technically if you include Kuala Lumpur airport) and both my son and I will create memories we’ll never forget.

To say I am proud is an understatement!

To be honest, I’m not quite sure if it has hit me yet. There is always so much planning involved right up until you step foot on that plane or sit in that car ready to take off. It feels surreal, I’m quite nervous, anxious and ok, and I’m bloody excited.

I asked my son last week – “Are you getting excited”, he replied “No not really” he took a breath and mumbled, “I’m going to miss my friends”. Ok, so I caught the arrow to the heart just as it was about to pierce when I remembered what it was like to be a teenager. The fear of missing out, being out of the loop, loosing the status within the group and so on. I resisted my feeling of hurt and put him first (again). I organised for five of his friends to come for a sleepover and hang for a good part of the weekend. The aim of this was to help him feel connected with his mates and show that he will not be missing out on anything and as  it turns out, two of the five are also going overseas at the same time (this helped greatly).

Finally after asking for three days to get his clothes ready to be packed, it hit him. “I think I’m getting excited now Mum” he says and I lovingly smile.

Since this light bulb moment, not that we have spoken much of the actual holiday but we’ve been quite chatty about, well, anything and everything and I feel this is his reflection of the excitement building. He feels connected with me and I think deep down he knows what a big deal this all is.

Two more sleep until we are sitting on that plane, not really knowing what is ahead (well yes, we do have an itinerary but you know what I mean) and I’m nearly ready. This is our last night with our Rosie girl (our beautiful ginger feline) before we take her over to my Nan’s to catsit for us and I’m sure she would love to come, she even tried getting into the suitcase. 🙂

I want to document my trip, share my journey and adventures of travelling with a teenager and who knows what else we might unravel. Perhaps I’ll create a new dream, implement an existing one or discover something completely different along the way. What I do know is that I can’t wait for ride and hope you’ll join me along the way.

Love, Light, and snuggles always! xo

Just quietly Centrelink can get FIRETRUCK

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!Firetruck_centrelink

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