Thursday, 14 June 2012

When People Get Stuck In a Rut

The Welfare System Can Do More Harm Than Good

The following is a true story, however there are no references to anyone's names or locations (apart from mine) as I feel their identity should be kept anonymous.

I heard a call on talk back radio last week from a woman who was at the end of her rope because she has been waiting for a government house for eight years. She called the radio program because she had heard that around 87,000 government houses were just unoccupied. I'm not sure if she was referring to a national figure or within her state; however I have heard that the State Housing departments do keep a certain number of their houses empty for a variety of reasons. Emergency housing would be the main reason and these emergent circumstances would vary depending on the needs of the public. During the bush-fires in Canberra in 2003; I heard that many people who were homeless were placed in emergency government accommodation housing that were vacant.

Anyway my reason for posting this blog was the conversation that occurred between the radio announcer and this woman. She is a mother of six children and lives with her partner/husband. Both she and her partner have disabilities and are on a disability payment. It sounded to me like this family have been through the wringer both emotionally and physically and I felt very sympathetic towards her situation.

She has three little children sharing the one room, and two grown sons living in the house bringing in no income and then went on to explain they cannot get Centrelink benefits for 3 months. She also mentioned a daughter who is married to a great guy and lives with her family some distance away. Her husband has various disabilities, so would be limited in what kind of activity he could do.

What upset me about this woman's situation is that she kept bringing up the past and all the things she and her family have done in the past but, she was not focusing on what she could do about her situation right now and into the future. It is so obvious to me (and I'm sure other parents who were listening) that instead of allowing her two grown sons to take advantage. (She has two adult boys and they are allowing their mother to support them when she has three little children who are totally dependent on her). It seemed to me that she had just accepted the fact that they had to wait the three months for money from Centrelink, rather than get their butts into gear and find jobs and contribute to the household expenses. If her boys are willing to work and do any job they are qualified for then that's what they should be doing. The jobs are out there, they just need to be found.

As for her back injury and her partner's disability; I guess it depends on how serious these medical issues are and this is where I am going to compare my recent situation to hers.

A few weeks ago I was paying $900 per fortnight for rent and my partner was earning $1,000 a fortnight from his job caring for disabled people. It's hard work and it's low pay, however he loves it. We had to get a boarder in to help with the expenses, we hated the idea, but we had no choice. Our children are almost grown, so for us not having the expenses that go along with raising children was a relief. I have had a back injury (Crushed vertebrae) for almost 20 years and I worked for years in an office (sitting at a computer all day) and came home in pain everyday, and it did not matter how many breaks I took. But I needed the job, because the wage was much better than what benefit the government would have given me. Three and half years ago, I became chronically ill and I still am. It took 2 years to diagnose and I was made do part-time hours at work which reduced my income. A year ago I stopped working as I was not coping, however because of what my partner was earning, I did not qualify for any type of benefit except a health care card. So with no income coming into the home from me; we were forced to cope as best we could and this situation went on for eighteen months. Yes I received almost $15,000 in leave accrual payouts and long service leave, however that did not last long.

Our situation now is that I have a severe illness of the stomach which should have improved given the treatment I've had, however it's not. My back injury is no better, and will never get better unless I have surgery which is most likely elective and expensive. We are no longer in that horrid financial situation because my partner and I sat down months ago and we planned out our next twelve months and every option we had was considered, because nothing ever goes to plan, and our lives certainly have not. Without going into too much detail, things changed for us dramatically and we have now ended up in a situation that was not part of the plan, however it's all for the better and we are both happier now. Separated, living in different places; however we are happier, because we managed to achieve our goals. He got to keep his job, found somewhere cheap to live and I am trying to get established as a writer. I write for a few online sites, my blogs and my followers are growing everyday. Live the dream while you can I say. My GP tells me I cannot work for at least the next three months and that outlook will depend on what my specialist has to say, so at the moment I'm working at doing what I love and hoping one day I get someone to pay me to do it.

What I'm saying is: have a plan, examine your options, stop making excuses, make a list of your non-negotiables i.e. pros and cons of every situation that could come up. This mother needs to get onto to Housing every week and nag the absolute hell out of them (that is what I did when I was a single parent and my daughter was little, and had my government house in Canberra in 4 years in 1995). They just may grant her family a house to make her go away. And the same goes for job hunting; chase up the companies, follow up, basically annoy them into employing you. It works; believe me. She also needs to focus on her little ones and get those boys, including her partner doing something.

I wish her and her family all the luck in the world and I encourage her to get up everyday and decide to do one thing that helps someone else, even something simple like holding a door open for someone at the shops. It's a start and it makes you feel great.  And perhaps she should focus on doing something simple that is just for her, like get hubby to watch the kids while she takes a bubble bath. This will help build up her self esteem. There are so many ways to pull yourself back up, you just need to give yourself that kick up the 'you know where.'

To read more of Janelle Coulton's articles, Please visit at: JanelleCoulton@Suite101 or you can read other blogs at: Janelle's Blogs

Photo has a Creative Commons licence and is linked to the source.

Copyright © 2012 Janelle Coulton