Where’s my 'fair go'?, asks Aileen

As Anglicare Australia calls for an overhaul of employment services for older people, YourLifeChoices member Aileen Reiter gives a first-hand description of the difficulties she has encountered. She sent an email to a Queensland senator and MP regarding the Work for the Dole program for those aged 60-plus. She says: “I apologise for the length of this communication but I think it is important you get the full picture.”

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Hello Senator/MP,
I was listening to Parliament Question Time today and heard Prime Minister Scott Morrison say he believes in “a fair go for those who have a go”. My question is, how is pursuing prosperity to be achieved for the 60-plus age group by forcing them to Work for the Dole after being unemployed for six months?

I am a single, 65-year-old female. I’ve had 45 years in the workforce and have been receiving Newstart since 5 July 2018. I have worked in the public and private sectors in various capacities and roles. I own my home outright, have a reliable vehicle and have raised four children singlehandedly. All have always been employed.

I do not consider myself a dole-bludger, I am not a drug addict nor an alcoholic. Now that I am receiving Newstart, often times I have less than $70 a fortnight to buy food after paying bills. I now have credit card debt.

I attend a Jobactive office (government employment service) fortnightly. My experience with that office has included but is not limited to:

1. I was told to seek financial advice if I cannot make $579 last a fortnight after paying bills. This was after I provided the interviewer with my budget (which I have used successfully for the past 10 years) and a bank statement showing how my meagre savings had been reduced to less than $500 since becoming unemployed.

2. I was told the Newstart benefit was to be used for food, rent and job search, not luxuries.

3.  I was told that I did not need to spend money repairing a ducted air-conditioning system in my home nor the air-conditioner in my car. (These are considered luxuries, but where I live it reaches 39C constantly in summer.)

4. I was told I should consider putting down my dog as he is an unnecessary cost. I’ve had him for 12 years and he is my only companion since I now live alone.

5. I was told I should consider cancelling home and contents insurance and comprehensive car insurance as these are not necessary. So one doesn’t protect one’s assets? Again I was told Newstart is not designed to cover assets.

6. I was told I was to be referred to Work for the Dole. I contacted my local MP’s office which advised that eligibility for referral was after six months’ registration on Newstart and that as I have been registered for 3.5 months I could not be referred. I was then told by the Jobactive interviewer that in 10 weeks’ time I would not have a choice and would be referred to Work for the Dole.

Listening to Scott Morrison a few days ago, he stated “the integrity of the welfare system as we planned it will be enforced”. Surely what he meant to say is “the welfare system is planned to be a punitive system to victimise the most vulnerable in society and this now includes 60-plus-year-olds”?

Imagine the scenario where you have applied for an advertised vacancy and have been rejected – even though you have 20 years’ relevant experience in a similar role – and then you are told by your Jobactive provider that you will be forced to undertake Work for the Dole for that same non-profit organisation? 

The Work for the Dole program “is designed to develop the job-seeker’s flexibility, adaptability, communication and team work skills”, according to the National Employment Services Association.

Is it fair to assume that after working for more than 45 years that one has not already acquired these attributes and that a 60-plus jobseeker has miraculously lost these attributes within six months of becoming unemployed? 

Is it fair to assume that 60-plus job-seekers have lost the rhythm of a working life?

Is the Government pressuring 60-plus job-seekers to retire early and access their superannuation. It would miraculously manipulate the unemployment figures.

What is your stance (Senator/MP) on the 60-plus age group being forced to Work for the Dole? With an upcoming election, I would like to know.

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Aileen says: The Greens replied that they opposed the Work for the Dole program. A Labor MP said he supported it and suggested I access my super and retire early and/or or get a hardship payment from Centrelink because the program is ‘working’.

I wonder how many 60-plus-year-olds are aware that this is what is going to happen to them once they have been unemployed for six months and are receiving a Newstart benefit.

Have you had disappointing experiences trying to find full-time or part-time work? Has Newstart worked for you?

Written by Janelle Ward

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