Elderly renter finds Facebook group is a friend indeed

Rental manager driven to help elderly tenant reclaim pension and pay back debt.

Elderly renter finds Facebook group is a friend indeed

A kindly property manager crowd-funded nearly $2000 to help out an elderly tenant whose Age Pension had been axed, leading him to fall behind in rent.

The troubles for Darwin pensioner Derek Holbrook, 65, began when Centrelink stopped his payments in the mistaken belief he was receiving a pension from the UK.

Mr Holbrook, who had set up an automatic debit for his rent, was unaware that the payments had stopped and inadvertently began to spend his rent money.

His plight came to property manager Rebecca Want de Rowe’s attention when the rental direct debits were also cancelled.

As Mr Holbrook had served some time in the British military, Centrelink had sent him paperwork to ascertain if he was collecting a second pension.

Overwhelmed by the paperwork, the pensioner kept putting off filling it in and eventually Centrelink stopped the payments.

Ms Want de Rowe told ABC News she went to help Mr Holbrook with the paperwork, but came to understand why he felt swamped by it.

“There were questions that he had no idea how to answer; there were questions from 30 years earlier that he just didn't have any memory of,” she said.

Eventually, local federal MP Luke Gosling helped restore Mr Holbrook’s payments, but the pensioner’s rent was still in arrears.

Determined to help him out, Ms Want de Rowe approached a number of charities, but claimed she was turned away.

In desperation, she asked members of a Facebook group for suggestions and they decided they would raise the necessary funds from their own donations to help Mr Holbrook pay his debt.

Using the hashtag #SaveDerek, the Facebook members raised $1350 for the rent and another $600 for him to buy basic necessities and a bicycle. He was taken by surprise and overwhelmed by the strangers’ generosity.

Sue Shearer, the chief executive of the NT Council of the Ageing, said she referred Mr Holbrook to local social services when she became aware of the case.

Ms Shearer said while it was heartening to see people working together to help Mr Holbrook, she wished “Centrelink could have a little more empathy, especially dealing with older people who really aren’t totally au fait with technology”.

“(Centrelink) are not user-friendly in any shape or form, and really, they already had all his records.”

Have you ever fallen behind with bills and had complete strangers help you out? Do you know anyone whose Age Pension was cut incorrectly?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    12th Apr 2018
    I always get centrelink to help me with any forms it is easier and quicker than trying to do so myself.
    Joy Anne
    12th Apr 2018
    Ayin, I am amazed that you got Centrelink to help you fill out your forms. They usually don't help anyone just make it harder for aged people.
    12th Apr 2018
    To The Hon. Michael Keenan MP - Minister responsible for Centrelink.

    Will you take notice of the bigger picture of what happened to this man? Surely Centrelink can play a major part in improving our Society's treatment of our senior citizens? You have an opportunity to do something really good here. I challenge you to take it.
    12th Apr 2018
    You almost need a lawyer now to deal with centrelink. The vulnerable need an advocate to help them deal with Centrelink. It has become extremely complicated with all of their rules. The sad part is that many of the workers at centrelink do not know all the rules themselves. I had one work ask how I could see my daughters account- like I have nominee access and this shows up on her file. How can a centrelink worker not know something as basic as that. if they do not understand the basic stuff then they have no hope o the really complicated issues, such as this pensioner in this story.
    12th Apr 2018
    leek...I think many Centrelink workers have been employed as cheap casual labour. So that those that are higher up can give themselves more increases.

    12th Apr 2018
    There are still some good people in the world.
    12th Apr 2018
    Good to know that there are still some good people in the world. Centrelink needs to be more empathetic when it comes to dealing with elderly people. Forms can be frustatting
    12th Apr 2018
    KB I agree...Many elderly citizens have serious medical conditions that are disabling that leaves them medicated to the hilt. There are those that are uneducated too. Instead of giving the CEO an annual salary raise, employ more workers that can help the disabled and elderly. I am sure their CEO won't give up his cushy, high paid job in a hurry.
    Mrs Hedgehog
    12th Apr 2018
    I received a very small part pension for a short time before Centrelink decided that having saved enough in super to receive a payement less than the pension made me super rich and so stopped payements. Having lived in a number of countries around the world, both as a child and as an adult, made some of the questions near impossible to answer and the forms seem to be designed so that most elderly people can not complete them by themselves. They are ten times harder to fill in than a tax return where you can employ someone to assist, but no assistance is available and you are required to continuously repeat the process without being given a copy of your previous effort. Centrelink has built itself an empire, not to care for people in need, but to elevate it’s executives and help as few people as possible.

    12th Apr 2018
    If this Government continues to try and destroy Centrelink it will destroy many jobs too. Those Centrelink workers should be considering this instead of being slack.
    12th Apr 2018
    Yes Brian P, your so right, I only get a very small part pension and I’me 74 but still work casually when I can to retain my pride, I use the work bonus but every time I earn even a hundred dollars, I have to visit Centrelink within 14 days and wait on average, an hour to advise them of the amount, in order to do the right thing, so humiliating for a person who only retired after full time work last year! Thank heavens I don’t have to do regular fortnightly reporting though on a not aged user friendly app...no respect anymore in the Governments eyes once you draw a Pension...

    12th Apr 2018
    Just reinforces the need to get Centrelink out of this business of assessing & harassing Age Pensioners - by implementing Universal Pension for all aged 65 & over without any Asset or Income Tests, with say 15 years Residence in Australia.

    12th Apr 2018
    This is a nice story and those who helped are to be commended. Sadly, the pensioner has only himself to blame as he was advised what to do and the reason but chose to ignore repeated warnings. Responders to this forum seem to be of the opinion that Centrelink should have sufficient staff to visit every pensioner who won't answer correspondence.
    12th Apr 2018
    Old Man....Centrelink has less staff today than when it was NOT privatised.
    12th Apr 2018
    I tend to agree Old Man. This was a 65 year old so unless he was Aboriginal who have a much shorter lifespan he was hardly in his dotage. He chose to ignore what he had to do. Instead of asking for help with the forms if he needed it, he just chose to ' forget about it'.
    17th Apr 2018
    KSS, that's a racist comment! Whether the man was mentally challenged or not has nothing to do with race.

    A sensible person doesn't just spend extra money without querying why it's there. It's not that he ignored the paperwork that astounds me. It's that he just spent the extra without a thought as to where it came from. That's irresponsible. But perhaps he is mentally challenged in some way, and if he is, that's nothing to do with race or age. There are plenty of young Australians of European descent who are stupid with money!
    21st May 2018
    No matter his age, some people just become overwhelmed with paperwork, on screen or not. It seems that older men cope worse than women and seem to shelve it all hoping it will just go away.
    I agree that there should be a group (volunteers or not) who assist the older public when they have to deal with Centrelink. Maybe it is something that JPs could take on.
    Nan Norma
    12th Apr 2018
    Look, its hard to know for sure if this man really had problems with forms or was just too lazy. But I do know a man that had a stroke at sixty and although everybody advised him to apply for a disability pension did not because he found the paperwork all too confusing. After some months his mother persuaded him to let her go with him to centrelink. he finally received his pension and now is on an old age pension.
    12th Apr 2018
    As Mr Holbrook was receiving an aged pension would suggest he had previously applied and completed the requisite forms to qualify. His faculties were obviously up to par to satisfy Centrelink for that purpose.
    To fill those forms, was he assisted or did he manage himself. Were he assisted then why didn't he seek assistance from the same party.
    To simply ignore the contact from Centrelink resulted in a problem of his own making.

    The person worthy of the highest praise is Ms Want de Rowe and those whom seem all too ready to bag all/any other partys' (perceived) "lack of empathy" overlook the fact that everyone relying on social benefit has a foremost responsibility to supply all information when responding to any request.

    All's well that ends well - it may not if you don't play your part.
    17th Apr 2018
    MD, it's not his inability to fill in forms that stuns me. It's that he didn't bother to verify what money was coming in and going out. How do you not notice that the rent isn't being paid, or that you regular income has stopped? You'd have to be incredibly careless and irresponsible to just ''spend the rent money''.
    12th Apr 2018
    It is of little wonder to me to find the gentleman got overwhelmed with doing those forms. I share the same sentiments of many posters on this matter.
    From my experience, those Centrelink forms are not simple to navigate, it's onerous and most people will need a big hand with doing those forms. Centrelink like so many government departements are rigid and lack the common-sense approach to their role.
    The cynic would say there is method in their madness, that is to deter rather than assist.
    12th Apr 2018
    I have 5 plus university degrees.... and deal with language, text, forms etc all the time....and I agree, Centrelink forms are incredibly onerous and take ages to complete with constant digging around to find the exact information in the exact format required, only to have to repeat it if for some reason your forms have to be reviewed or there are additional questions.....I was assisting a person applying for a disability pension....I'm not looking forward to having any interactions with them on my own behalf in the future.....
    17th Apr 2018
    I agree about the forms, but only a very irresponsible person fails to monitor incoming and outgoing moneys. And if the forms are complex, at least call Centrelink and explain that you are struggling to deal with them and ask where you can get help.

    I do sympathize with anyone who has to deal with the Centrelink monster. But it's not hard to verify that money is coming in and going out as it should. If he can't do that, he shouldn't be allowed to manage his own affairs. A trustee should be appointed.
    12th Apr 2018
    I guess I will be working still at 65 as many of my nursing colleagues are so the word elderly sounds awful. Nurses have to retire on their super hence working way before our use by date.
    21st May 2018
    Years ago when I was all alone in Brisbane, my brother died interstate. I was devastated. No-where to turn, barely any money though I was working. Ex Victorian friends who lived up in Qld rang to offer to pay my fare to Victoria to go to the funeral. So very kind. I was so upset though that I couldn't even manage to get through the days let alone go on a plane. I went to work to keep my mind occupied and broke down on the day of his funeral at the time he was being buried. Staff took me aside, made me cups of tea and hugged me. Kind people everywhere.

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