Those who need it are hit the hardest

For a lot of Australians, this week saw family payment cuts by a substantial amount due to the overhaul of Centrelink payments by our lovely government.

My family payment doesn’t go far but like most Australian families, the regular income helps out a great deal. As I work for myself, my income is varied and to be honest, it can be financially painful waiting for invoices to be paid to you, so I rely on the family payment to stay afloat. With some invoices, I have had to wait over 60 days for the invoices to be paid, which isn’t much fun when I have bills to pay myself.
I am quite lucky in that I am tertiary educated and have a decent work history behind me, so I can work for myself but it would be a lot easier if I could go back to working for someone else. I could be making over $100K a year but with the boys, it wouldn’t work. I’m not complaining, I chose to sacrifice my working career when I had the boys and I am happy with what I do but it is incredibly hard.
Thomas had 32 days off school due to illness in 2012 (children with Aspergers have a low immune system and very low pain threshold, meaning he was home… a lot!), Matthew had 16 days off for the year with colds, a chest infection/ asthma and viruses. I also have to take Thomas to his therapy sessions and doctor appointments. So that begs the question, if I am supposed to go back to work full time, what employer would hire me in advertising, marketing or as an online marketing consultant when I have to stay home with the boys regularly? I don’t have any family backup to help out, so all there is, is me.
The long hours wouldn’t suit us either.When I was working for an advertising agency, I was working from 8am until 6 pm, Monday to Friday and taking work home with me. Add travel time onto those hours and I would have to leave home at 7am and get home after 7pm. It really doesn’t give me much time to spend with the boys and not much of a life either, to be honest. Rarely do you see these positions being part time or have flexible working arrangements. Apparently, I am too over qualified for most part time roles. So I just have to keep on doing what I have been to keep things afloat. Things aren’t too bad financially, I mean we are comfortable (I don’t have any debt or owe money) but I wouldn’t say we are flush with funds by any means. It’s just a shame I can’t receive any assistance with the costs of being at home with Thomas because he isn’t deemed ‘bad enough’ for me to receive carers payment.
Disability support pensions, such as the carers allowance or payment have been made even harder to receive. I know of two families where one partner has terminal cancer and the other has applied for carers payment because they have had to give up work to care for their partner, only to get rejected or it has been a circus of jumping through hoops to obtain.
With the latest support payment cuts, sole parents have been the hardest hit. When I was first separated from my ex husband, I was on a part single parenting payment. Plus the usual family payment and rent assistance, which in total is around $600 per week. Not exactly extravagant by any means, when at least half of that amount is being paid in rent. You are incredibly lucky to obtain a rental property for under $300 a week in Melbourne, then you are looking at $50 a week petrol, $150 food.. leaves $100 for bills and other costs.
The cost of day care or before/afterschool care, school holiday care, transport and taking time off to look after sick kids (and let’s be honest, most children get sick) doesn’t really leave much at the end of the week if you are on minimum wage, which by latest statistics is $600 a week. If you work part time, it would even be harder to cover costs. How many children are going to be left home alone because the parent couldn’t take the day off work or couldn’t find or afford to pay someone to look after the child/ren?

With rising utility costs, petrol and food prices how are the low and middle income earners of Australia supposed to live? Charity services such as the Salvation Army and Vinnies are having to turn people away and can’t keep up with the demand for their services because families are really hurting and doing it tough.
More and more families are using credit cards and loans to make ends meet with the high cost of living, which is making their financial issues worse.  Australian credit card debt has struck a new record high of $50 billion, ballooning by almost a third in the past five years and continues to grow. That equates to over $4000 of debt per person.
I’m sure the stress of financial issues aren’t helping the rate of domestic abuse and divorce, which are both escalating.

So many families are classed as the ‘working poor’ now and it will continue to get worse. From 1 January 2013, low income earners will no longer be eligible for Parenting Payment when their youngest child turns six years of age if they receive Parenting Payment Partnered, or eight years of age if the parent receives Parenting Payment Single. The recent changes makes things even harder for those on a low income and can’t receive any financial assistance. Health care cards and pension cards have also been cut, so families who are already struggling won’t be able to pay for doctors visits and prescriptions. Maybe the $100 a fortnight in family payments going to parents earning over $80,000 a year would be better spent on low and middle income families who need it?

Sole parents who have children over eight years of age will have to go on Newstart allowance, which is only $260 a week. If Jenny Macklin can live on that, then I would love to see her try, it doesn’t even cover the average rent for a one bedroom unit in most metropolitan areas.
For those who have been retrenched by recently factories closures (of which there have been many), those over 50 years of age or young people with little experience (all of which, a high percentage end up long term unemployed) and are now on Newstart, how are they expected to live on $260 a week? It doesn’t give them much hope, does it? With trying to cover their rent/ bills etc, even if they were lucky enough to get an interview, you have to pay for transport to the interview and then you need decent clothing to wear to the interview. I don’t think $9 jeans from Kmart or an outfit from the Salvos is going to cut it, do you? Hence, the cycle of the long term unemployed.
The disability pension is also hard to obtain and only $350 a week. Well, hard to obtain if you are honest. There are plenty who abuse the system and make it hard for those who legitimately need assistance. ‘Able until proven disabled’ applies to applying for disability assistance now.
Funding to disabilities and mental health services have also been cut and the services are stretched beyond their means. It is no wonder people with disabilities and mental illnesses end up on the street and no one to look after them, there aren’t enough services or assistance for them. The Government housing waiting list is well over ten years now, so why would anyone bother with applying?
You just have to walk down any street of your local capital city to see how many homeless people there are and unfortunately, a great deal of them are disabled and/or have mental illnesses. Ten ago you wouldn’t see many homeless people during the day, now they are on the streets of every city in Australia. The divide between the rich and the poor is getting greater.

The lucky country? Maybe for high income earners, not the average Australian.


  • Tara Leslie

    All so true. I’m qualified, experienced and willing to work, but when I had to give up a job a few years ago due to too many weekend and night shifts it took me absolutely ages to find something else. It’s not a lack of wanting to work, it’s all the other commitments such as those you described – it’s bloody hard to KEEP the damn job unless you have an incredibly understanding boss.

    I’m now at the stage where my older children can babysit my youngest when needed, which has made all the difference. I’m now working FT, which is ridiculously hard combined with all the kids’ needs, but it’s just about doable.

    If, during the time I was on SPP, I had been put on Newstart I simply could not have managed at all. I was studying and looking for work the entire time, taking short term crappy casual jobs when available, but even that wouldn’t have been enough.

    To put it eloquently and succinctly – IT SUCKS!

  • Anonymous

    I’ve just been put on Newstart, after the SPP and my child turned 8 last month. It’s $200 less each month, and that’s WITH an extra education supp while I am studying! (austudy was the other option, but that’s even LESS and WITHOUT the supp) I am one of the lucky ones renting a small cottage for just under $300pm in Melbourne, but just wow. I struggle to hold on to work, even study, due to anxiety and depression, yet under the new disability assessments I don’t think I qualify. I can admit freely how scary this is.

    I am extremely lucky to have a very close and supportive extended family. I can’t imagine what this would be like for those who have none of that. This year will be a challenge for so many.

    The vegie patch is being carefully cared for, to make every garden expenditure last. I’m in the process of going over my budget with a fine tooth comb so all bills are paid for and my son has healthy food to eat. It’s a tight spot – making choices that save money, yet many of those choices take time to execute (like caring for a veg garden, giving up the car) – damned if I do, damned if I don’t. I am not sure how I will handle the stress, but have put my doctor on alert!
    I am grateful for every thing I have, and for the roof over our heads. I am grateful that my son and I are together in a house and not sleeping in a car, as I know other families are facing this reality.
    I’ll just have to suck it up. I’ll stay grateful for what we have, and continue to work for a better life for my son and I. I’ll be writing to Jenny Macklin in later months to tell her exactly what it’s been like.


  • Tash

    Not ‘bad enough’ for Apsergers is so ridiculous….if only the policy makers could shared the lived experience for even a month!

    10 years ago people may have been institutionalised, instead of being out on the streets, battling homelessness. The change still needs work, cos the support is just not there.

    Great post, so spot on.

  • Peta @ Great Googa Moogas

    There needs to be a serious evaluation of government payments rules and regulations. Those who need it and do the right thing are made to jump through hoops while others who abuse the system sit back and get paid for doing nothing. I for one am sick of being penalised and punished for doing the right thing.

  • Janet Camilleri

    I really feel for the parents affected by these cuts.

    I was made redundant from my “secure” government job in October; luckily though my husband’s job is still okay. But it hasn’t been easy.

  • Annaleis Topham

    I choose to stay home like you because who would do all the running around my children need and because the nearest daycare is 50 km away. We now miss out because we are in that middle section.

    Out here where we live it cost $5 for one loaf of bread and nearly the same for 2lts of milk. Do they factor that in for rural and outback people.

  • Kathy G

    I have yet to be changed over to Newstart but am dreading the day that it happens, i will not cope with 2 children under 10 who as they get older cost MORE to feed & clothe not less

    This is a typical fortnightly (SPP & FTB A&B) budget for me:

    500 rent
    120 bills
    80 petrol
    80 Insurance & internet
    60 swimming lessons
    200 food

    Which leaves me with approximately 60 spare (just in case a child gets sick, or i get sick (god forbid)

    So, take out the roughly 120 that i will lose (and i say ROUGHLY as it will more than likely be double that from postings i have been reading from others)

    so that puts me -60, cancel swimming lessons, so that puts me back to ZERO … god help me if the kids need cloths or more shoes or anything else, esp if they require medicine. I cant NOT have petrol in the car as i have walking problems, i cant NOT have insurance on the car as i wont drive without it (too many idiots on the road), doesnt leave me with much else to take away from except food …. how do you live on 100/week or LESS for food to feed 1 adult & 2 growing, hungry childrren?!? Because the way things are going, we will be living back in the depression era living on vegemite/marmite sandwiches and potatoes …… I already budget shop but i will have to be even more thrifty when this happens & my kids will be the ones missing out

    these politicians really need a BIG dose of reality and not their 650/day, we can do it all, income and live in the shoes of those who are living below the poverty line already!

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