A politician goes on record (or doesn't, more to the point) as having said something stupid and the focus is on the STUPID, not the real point!
We all know the system of Welfare in Australia is broken, we all know that there are those who "take advantage" of the system and its flaws (loopholes), we all may NOT know how hard it is to actually pull yourself out of a deep black hole once you have slipped into it, despite your best efforts not to.
Yes there are those whose expertise in staying on a benefit far outweighs the knowledge of the system that most Centrelink Employees have (as most of them are on contract and don't have permanent jobs either).
There are many scenarios, all different and very individual, but the one thing that single parents have in common, is the obvious, they are single!
Yes, as I said, each situation is different, some people have family to support them, some have good working relationships with the other parent that means the responsibility can be shared (as it should be), some do work and earn a sufficient income to pay for childcare or other types of help (domestic support etc.), but there are many that are simply SINGLE.
The sole parent, the only person who can provide care of any kind to that child or children, they are alone.
I am one of the lucky ones, while I am a single parent who has no hands on support available to me from anywhere else, I have in the past been able to work from home (currently that is not the case), but, as I said, I am luck, because I don't need to be on the Single Parent Payment and, as my youngest child is now 10 years old, I also do not have to be on New Start, because my youngest child has a disability and I am able to be on a different Centrelink payment, until such time as I can re-establish my independence.
Re-establish my independence! That is what the Welfare system is supposed to be there for. To help people get back on their feet, to help those who, usually due to unforeseen circumstances have found themselves in need of some assistance.
We talk about those who cheat the system or "long term unemployed", we talk about fixing the system, but at the core of all this talking is the problem I mentioned at the start of this rant, WE ARE FOCUSING ON THE STUPID!!!
As a Nation, we need to look at why there is a Welfare System in place at all, we need to get back to the basics of helping those who are willing to help themselves and support them in a way that allows them to do that.
I had not intended sharing all of the following, but I think getting some real perspectives on this problem is very important. And so ...
For EIGHT YEARS, (since the collapse of my marriage due to nothing I could have changed, God knows I tried) I have tried many ways of re-establishing my independence.
Up until a year ago, I was self-employed so that I could support my children, I tried to apply for the waiting list for the opportunity to own my own home through a GREAT organisation called Habitat for Humanity Australia (but it was closed due to the length of the list and now I do not qualify as you must be working to be on the waiting list not just receiving a Centrelink payment), I have had to fore go my employment to take care of my kids due to my inability to source any hands on support. Instead they pay me a wage to stay at home with my son a "wage" which is far greater than the cost of the support I required to enable me to do my job as a parent and as a paid full time worker.
If I had been able to received 2 hours a day 5 days a week hands on support, and a respite package to assist in times of crisis through the year, I could have returned to work on a full time basis as I had the capacity to earn a decent living. I could have then paid for my own before and after school care and vacation care, I could have paid substantial taxes, I could have maintained my own private rental accommodation, and possibly through Habitat, eventually owned my own home again, (I am now living in subsidised Community Housing), I could be paying for Speech Therapy for my son as I used to (not sitting on a list waiting for a free service funded by the Government) and I could have retained my dignity, self-esteem and mental health.
As a result of the Full Time Carer status that I now have, I STILL require respite (probably more than I would need if I were working, as work would also provide me with a social outlet which I do not get now).
So there it is, the truth of my situation, I asked the Government for a HAND UP, and they gave me a hand out, which has systematically made my situation worse than I could have ever imagined it to be.
I have also seen on Twitter tonight many other similar conversations that show we are not doing the right thing. We have fully qualified Teachers on New Start simply because they cannot get enough work in the areas they need to work, as they are single parents too.
And let's not mention our Broken Public Housing System, which due to the way it works, only makes people dependant on that service long term.
I hear the cries of, "You can't be doing too badly; you have a computer and the Internet!" I have heard these cries before, a fair call if you have no concept of how the reporting system works with Centrelink.
If you are constantly looking for work or accommodation, in this day and age, the Internet is no longer a luxury, it is a necessity. When I was searching for private rental properties, many of the Real Estate Agents will no longer list you for a viewing of a property unless you register on their website, they will not even take your name the phone, they will also not notify you by text as it is all put through their on line automated email system! Unless you have access to a computer, you miss out. Using the Library computer is not efficient enough as most notifications of property viewings only go out the night before and many are on a Saturday.
Centrelink is also moving to automation. If you go to their office to report your income or change address or report your "looking for work" status, they will sit you down at one of their public computers, sign you up, get you a password etc. and show you how to do it on line there and then, rather than being served at the counter that you just caught two buses to be served at.
And THAT, is where my rant ends.
I have many ideas of how to fix these systems, but will not go on for now.
The Happy Ending I hope to get from all this, is that my experiences over the last eight years, will eventually lead to improving the systems that are so, so broken and the good news for Jenny Macklin and any other Politician who says they can live on the dole is, they cannot prove anything we do not already know by carrying out such stunts, we know the payment for New Start is actually below the poverty line, nobody can live like that, nor should they have to.
What are your suggestions to fix the system?