Saturday, February 18, 2006

Letter from a friend driven to desperation by DOH 'policy'

How Housing and Welfare policy actively discriminate against workers and are a disincentive to employment.
I have received this from a friend, "Olivia" who is in a very similar situation to myself.  Her children have the same neurological disorder as mine. The key features of this disability is absence of 'wiring' for social reciprocity. Olivia was deserted by her partner, who is very wealthy but refuses to pay maintenance. He is a vexatious litigant who repeatedly hauls her through the courts simply to control and torment her. He always loses these cases but not before extracting the maximum amount of pain. With 2 early teenage boys with serious and demanding personality disorders, including ADHD and mild intellectual deficit,  she is almost fully occupied with the daily onslaught of the boys' relentless demands, trouble-shooting at school, dealing with "helping" agencies, and trying to stay sane under her husbands attacks. Despite all this,  Olivia is a beautiful, warm, caring and conscientious young mother, much loved by all of us who know her in our disability community. You would never guess to look at her that she is living at subsistence levels of income. Despite what she has to cope with, she took on a tertiary level course, graduated last year and was immediately snapped up by recruiters. She was very excited to be beginning her new career, an ideal job close to home with family friendly hours.
Olivia started her new job 3 weeks ago.
She has now resigned.
The Letter
Hi D...

I have so much to tell you.  I am exhausted.  The bottom line is I am working 5 days a week and am in fact worse off.  I resigned on Monday and told them I will continue to work for as long as it takes them to find someone to replace me but have asked them to only pay me 2 days a week and I will work 5 days as I am better off 2 days.

Desperate to talk to you but each night I run around and before in know it, its really late.  I basically eat my lunch and keep working and by the time I get home I run around and fall into bed about 12 or 1am.

I have another huge day tomorrow but will try to ring you tomorrow night or Friday to organise to get together.  Will try to give you a quick buzz tomorrow from work (very hard talking at work even for a minute - I nick into the toilet and ring on my mobile) and see if we can set something up.

Its 12.30 and I will be up at 5.40am.  What a nightmare.

Look forward to speaking to you soon
Olivia's statement to Carers Australia
I have two sons with disabilities, one with Aspergers Syndrome (Autism Spectrum) and the other with a raft of problems and is described as, "a boy who is handicapped by multiple overlapping problems and behaviours which fulfil the diagnosis of combined subtype ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder, in addition to suffering from severe learning disbilities".  Sorry about this description but there is no succinct "label". 

I receive a Carers Allowance for the boys and Parenting Payment.  Because I am in Department of Housing, when I took on this recent job my rent almost trippled.  This explains the figures in my email.  The Department of Housing has recently bought in new reforms.  I have always paid 25% of anything I receive (parenting payment, family tax, child support, interest on savings, etc).  Now you have to pay 30% if you earn over a certain amount and this then becomes a sliding scale upwards until you pay full rent.

When I took the job I believed I would be getting $28,536.80 per year.  My rent went from $107.08 per week to $234.99 per week.  After starting the job I found out that in fact my wage would be $37,526.32 per year.  I was so excited, $9,000 a year more !!  After applying the formula I soon found out that my rent went up to $267.03 per week and I lost my Parenting Payment completely - the extra $9000 per year equated to an extra $30 per week BUT with the extra rent and loss of benefits I was in reality worse off with the $9000 extra.

I have a friend who also has a child with Autism and is in Dept of Housing and who has recently started working.  She is on Carers Payment and is at the moment deciding wether to continue with her job or to resign.  Basically if you are in our situation it is almost impossible to get ahead or improve your situation.  I will discuss this with her and feel she would also be happy to share her situation with you.

Thank you

While Packer a gets state funeral for evading tax...

... and squandering the money extracted from the teeth of Australian workers on foreign gambling dens, working mothers of disabled children,  living in public housing,  struggle to put food on the table and are treated like criminals if they default on a a couple of weeks rent.
When will the people of Australia wake up and get rid of this miserable crew in Canberra, their parasitic cronies, and a gutless Labor party whose only policy response to every question is to beat the populist drum and pander to the worst instincts of an electorate terrorised by artifical scarcities caused by too many wealthy pigs feeding at the public trough?

Send the parasitic Packers packing


Thursday, February 02, 2006

Just plain desperate...

I'm not in the mood for irony. I'm not playing at the persona of "desperate houso" today, I'm just plain desperate. Life is getting too complex and this termination notice has knocked me over the edge. Given the general level of societal meanness, the bankruptcy of a Labor Party which has lost its course as a bulwark of social justice and equity, the downward envy underlying the new "Reshaping Public Housing" policy, and the exhaustion of society's reserves of compassion as everyone scrambles to get on the fast-departing gravy train, I'm not at all sure that I wont be homeless by March.

And this despite holding down a variety of highly stressful and responsible jobs, which leave me only about $2 - $3 an hour better off than the carers pension, despite coping with the extra needs of a disabled child, despite decades of volunteer work (see my bio in the next column)

And why? Simply because I'm going out backwards with exhaustion, do not earn enough to cover my basic needs, and am forced to pay bills on the basis of who shouts loudest.

Because I work variable hours, because I do not get paid on a regular basis because the organisation I work for runs on a shoestring, my only income between 5th and 31st of January was $450 plus my daughter's disability pension of $313. My rent is set at $528.80 a fortnight. Meanwhile, my daughter's Austudy payments were suspended when she finished high school. My carers allowance was also cut off because Centrelink lost the paperwork, meaning I have to find $120 again to pay my daughters psychiatrist to fill out a duplicate form.

Avid readers of this blog (all zero of you ... ) will not have to be reminded that my rent arrears also accrued during the 13 weeks in which I had no income whatever because Centrelink was incapable of processing my Carer's pension application. You will recall that my daughter and I lived off my mother's age pension during that time. There is simply no governmental will to care for people in crisis.

So how did I get myself into this mess where I now face eviction?

  1. Unpredictable wage schedule.
    I only found out what my holiday pay would be when I got the check. There had been some discussion that I might get some holiday pay though not much had accrued in the 3 months that I had worked here. But when the cheque came, I only got the public holiday amount. I dont get paid by direct deposit because of my variable hours, and my pay dates have been irregular.
  2. Disruption of normal schedules over Christmas
    I went away from Sydney over Christmas. I was under the impression that DOH had closed down over Xmas.
  3. Inconsistent policies from the Department of Housing
    This includes:

    An antiquated income reporting system: Staff do not understand the legislation and give inconsistent answers to queries

    Unpredictable schedule of reminders: Sometimes you get a letter the day after you miss a payment. Sometimes you get nothing. Usually I get an automatic reminder notice if I am so much as a day late with the rent. Havent heard anything from the Department for months. Assumed everything was alright and I could sort it out when my normal CSO gets back from holidays and I submit a new estimate of my much reduced wage.

    Inconsistency in calculating a fair level of arrears payments
    I was under the impression that I had an arrangment to pay arrears of $40 a fortnight until I get a letter telling me otherwise. No letter has arrived since my conversation about this with my CSO. Yesterday I was advised that I had agreed to pay $100 extra a fortnight! But I have no memory of this. See below.

    Work: My new job is simply exhausting. I am coping with a massive backlog of work, trying to do a 2 person job. Like many public sector jobs, the whole thing relies on the idealism and conscientiousness of society's chronic do-gooders, of which I've really got to stop being one. I barely take time off for lunch. I forget to look after my own personal business - by the time I surface from the mountains of files and queries, its 6.30pm and everything is closed.

    Home:My house is so badly designed (all glass, facing west, no insulation in the roof, windows dont open, no air circulation) that I cannot use my bedroom at all in the afternoons, and it doesnt cool down properly till dawn. I cant rest here.!

    Carer issues: Worried about my daughter who is at home all day every day now that she has completed her schooling. No matter how tired I am at the end of the day, I have to put on a brave face and meet all her unmet social needs. If there are resources available for school leavers with her particular disability, I am too tired to track them down. Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelpppppppppp!!!!!

    Who wouldnt be depressed given all this? I cant afford a shrink. I used to have a wonderful counsellor funded by the State Government (out of gambling revenue!). He was a cornerstone of my stability, but the service was closed down. The state has run out of gambling revenue!???? Crisis services do not apparently have resources for anyone unless they are in massive crisis past the point of no return - ie after they after they have committed suicide. See entry below abt WA Premier Gallops resignation! Half his luck!

    I have made an appointment with my doctor to discuss the possibility of early onset Alzheimers. Though I am hoping that it is just stress, depression and fatigue. Just!

I say all this because I am sure that this is not just my personal problem. I am sure that in the decade since the Howard government took over, people are expected to work harder and faster for less than ever and society is wearing the costs. Unfortunately it's the same the whole world over: the anger of the people is easily directed against the easiest scapegoats, rather than at the people who are making the profits.

The irony is that I am a highly accomplished, well-educated woman, a responsible member of society, I dont have any vices, dont drink, smoke, take drugs, gamble, I do loads of volunteer work, and here I am, hanging on by my fingernails!