I’m not normally one to go on a rant but today I feel I have to. This week I was forced to sit on the phone for 1 hour and 39 minutes (using up my phone credit) after my carers pension was incorrectly cancelled and we were fined $585.
I am certainly not one of those people who think government assistance is an entitlement. I strongly believe it is a privilege and know that I am very fortunate to live in a country like Australia where government assistance is possible but does that mean I have to be treated like a second class citizen?I have worked hard from the age of 15, paid my taxes and even paid off my university fees and yet I am made to feel like I’m somehow trying to rort the system.
Fortunately after my long wait listening to elevator music while trying to juggle a screaming Ollie, I did get a friendly Centrelink employee on the phone. As most people know, getting someone friendly is not always a guarantee. However, on looking at my file, the woman was baffled as to why we had had the payment cancelled. She called over her supervisor and after being put on and off hold several times she admitted that it seemed like a mistake, they didn’t know why it had happened and they had to refer me to someone higher up the food chain.
If she couldn’t understand the system then how could I? I consider myself to be of reasonable intelligence and I speak English. Goodness knows what happens to those who can’t speak English.
I am now at a point where just the thought of having to call them and explain my situation again and again brings up so much anxiety. Rather than sit on the phone, I could go in and wait in the queue like cattle but last time I did that I ended up in tears, frustrated by the lack of assistance, and I fear losing it again.
I am not entitled to welfare but I am entitled to my dignity and respect. I shouldn’t be made to feel like I am trying to be dodgy or that I am begging for money. It’s bad enough that the rest of society considers us dole bludgers let alone being made to feel bad by the very people who work in the system.
In some ways we are ‘lucky’ that Aidan’s condition is terminal which makes all the medical paperwork a little but more straight forward. For those with more complicated and less clear cut disabilities it is a constant battle to prove the need for assistance. I know of people who have had to prove their child’s obvious disability time and time again in order to receive minimal assistance to pay for therapies. Like me, I’m sure they often feel like telling the government officials to shove their money.
I suspect that I will not receive a call from anyone this week and will have to go through the whole rigmarole again. I will plead my case to a new person who will again scrutinise the pittance that Anthony earns and again tell me they don’t know what is happening. It’s demoralising and degrading.
While I would prefer not to pursue the matter, I look at Aidan and realise that I have no other choice. He needs us to be home to take him to hospital visits and he enjoys going to football games, none of which would be possible without government handouts. There are few things I look forward to when Aidan goes, but not having to deal with Centrelink is a certainly one of them.