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I’m a carer, but who cares?

Have you ever tried dealing with Centrelink? Don’t bother, you might as well be dealing with the Knights Templar or a secret society. I have been dealing with them – or ‘trying’ to deal with them – for a year and have not progressed one inch. Out of frustration/desperation I have written to my state Ombudsman. My letter appears below. For the sake of this article I have removed my name and replaced it with ‘The Faceless Man’. A fitting name, I feel.

To the NSW Ombudsman,

I am the full-time carer for my mother, who suffers from advanced stages of Motor Neuron Disease. She is what the medical professional and doctors like to call a ‘worst case scenario’ in regards to terminally ill sufferers.

There truly is no disease more debilitating or brutal as Motor Neuron Disease.

A former youth drug and alcohol councilor, who also taught and volunteered at PCYC, is reduced to living out her few remaining years without control of her muscles.

She is my mum and for over a year now she has been my job.

I am being punished by the DHS for this. In August last year I applied for the Carers Payment to help me in this desperate situation. It has now been almost one year and I still haven’t received the Carers Payment despite supporting doctor’s evidence and application requirements being met. I’ve lodged various complaints/enquiries but these have been to no avail.

Calls lead nowhere, visits to DHS offices result in rebuttals and every DHS representative – whether they be a Centrelink staff member or job provider agent – falls back to a chain of command, conveniently absolving them from the issue. Permission to see the Centrelink social worker was denied despite the Centrelink website advising that I can in fact see the social worker if I should ask for one.

Am I crazy for feeling discriminated against for being a carer by the DHS?

I am forced to look for work when I clearly cannot, constantly earning me payment suspensions from my job seeker payment. No exceptions are given. So tell me, have I been failed by the DHS and will you help me?

‘The Faceless Man’

 

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28 comments

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  1. Freethinker

    That it is terrible, my thoughts are with you and your mother.
    I hope that the Ombudsman would do something very soon.

  2. babyjewels10

    We need to share this around because you are not alone. Two months ago a young friend of mine tried to leave her violent husband. She applied to Centrelink for financial assistance as she is unemployed, due to a chronic illness. She has three kids. After 8 weeks, not one cent had arrived from Centrelink. They kept putting back her first date of payment, although she had been approved. It simply never came. She is now back in the abusive relationship, her escape fund gone. I fear for her life. Her partner is a drug using beast.

  3. Lorraine Stansfiewld

    Disgraceful behaviour from DHS towards someone who is badly in need of assistance. I hope the Ombudsman will assist you as soon as possible.

  4. Carol Taylor

    It has been suggested that such behaviours from Centrelink are deliberate. One recalls the ‘push’ sometime ago where the government used the tactics straight from the John Howard Handbook – demonise those who you are about to hit hard. We therefore ended up with tales in the msm of people with disabilities who weren’t really disabled at all, in the ‘expert’ opinion of an ex-boss/ex-girlfriend/former brother in law. We all remember the ‘neighbor on the roof’ pic, but who is to say that this person wasn’t on the DSP for a condition other than physical. Nobody bothered to ask that question.

    Along with these types of stories came the Liberal philosophy that the way to get someone back into the workforce was to make access to the DSP as difficult as possible – jump through many hoops, face lengthy delays, then the person with the disability would miraculously be able to find work. I believe that this is what The Faceless Man is being confronted with, lengthy delays so that he will give up trying for the Carers Allowance and find an alternative..whatever that might be.

  5. kerri

    My sympathies are so with you! My parents have both given me POA. When I went to Centrelink to try to manage my dad’s pension into a new bank account (because Westpac The Pines told me they didn’t recognise my POA) I was greeted with confusion as I had no Centrelink record! Never having had to access public benefits apparently made it seriously difficult to get Centrelink acknowledgement! Great! So once we ironed that out, I thought, before I left that I would use the Government supplied free computer access to check on my record and that of my folks. It was IMPOSSIBLE! I summoned a uniformed centre worker and explained my difficulty in accessing the information. With a look to the left and a look to the right she leant close and said “don’t bother. It’s useless”.

  6. Not On

    I am so sorry to hear this. I am very ill and had to wait 9 months for the Disability Benefit. Like you, I spent countless hours on the phone and every time I went to Centrelink I was told to use the phone there. In the end, in sheer frustration, I rang every local member, federal member and then Canberra. I threatened media publicity (which I would never have done but they didn’t know that). Once I got them all involved, presto, I was suddenly approved.

    I don’t know the answer for you but it breaks my heart to see the way you are treated and when challenged, Hank whatisname, will always say the system does need some adjustments. They seem to forget that we are real human beings with real problems.

    All my best wishes go to you and your mother.

  7. Carol Taylor

    babyjewels10, sadly this would also fit in with some hardliners stance. They would argue that the tactics have been ‘a success’ as your friend returned to her violent husband – another marriage ‘saved’.

  8. Bighead1883

    ‘The Faceless Man’
    Another person during the election campaign had a complex Centrelink carers DSP problem and took his plight to Bill Shorten
    He was successful and gave his thanks via Twitter

    Bill Shorten
    Position Member for Maribyrnong Location Suite 1a, 12 Hall Street, Moonee Ponds,Vic 3039 Postal Address PO Box 214, Moonee Ponds Vic 3039 Telephone (03) 9326 1300 Fax (03) 9326 0611 Email Bill.Shorten.MP@aph.gov.au Honorific MP Website http://www.aph.gov.au/B_Shorten_MP Other Roles Leader of the Opposition.

  9. etnorb

    How sad that this “faceless man” has not been able to secure the Carer’s Pension. I find these days that the (few) people at the coal face in Centerlink are, on the whole, not too bad at explaining your queries, but trying to deal with “anyone” on the phone is just a waste of time! Sadly, when Centerlink used to be the Department of Social Security, you used to have more luck in “working things out”, because there were more staff on hand. With the Government cutting back on counter staff & having also cut back on call-center staff, it is very frustrating trying to get Centerlink to do what their “charter”, or whatever they have, says they will do! I hope this caring son finally gets justice–& back pay as well.

  10. leonetwo

    I’ve been dealing with Centrelink for many years, first on DSP, now on the age pension. At least now they leave me alone.
    Make a stack of copies. Then go through this list –
    https://www.humanservices.gov.au/corporate/about-us/organisation-structure
    and send a copy to everyone who you think might have something to do with your problem, starting with Grant Tidswell, Chief Executive Centrelink, address PO Box 7788 Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610
    In your cover letter mention the magic word ‘ombudsman’.

    It’s pointless trying to deal with local staff, pointless making phone calls. that just gets you some lackey or shit-kicker who knows nothing, and doesn’t give a damn about you or your circumstances. MPs and ministers are also useless, you will get a lot of ‘thank you for your letter’ replies and nothing more will happen.

    The only way to deal with Centrelink is to go straight to the top. I learnt that the hard way.

    Here’s someone who did this sort of thing and managed to beat the system.
    http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/this-man-beat-centrelinks-system-and-he-says-you-can-too-20160127-gmet74.html

  11. leonetwo

    Sorry, my comment came out a bit garbled.

    This is missing –

    I hope you have kept records of your dealings with Centrelink, every phone call, every letter, whatever you have said to them. If you don’t have records then start keeping a diary right now. You will also need details of your income, dealings with the Job Search agency and every other bit of information that might be relevant.

    Make a stack of copies ….. and proceed as I outlined.

    And the very best of luck.

  12. vicki

    I do feel for the writer because I have had problems with Centrelink in the past. I tried to get my mother a health care card when her medication was costing between $200 to $300 dollars per month. A financial advisor worked out that she was eligible but staff I encountered insisted she was not. After several months of toing and froing plus numerous phone calls I gave up. Later I tried again to help my granddaughter get a student allowance when she started University – couldn’t past first base. Staff very unhelpful – told us that we needed to apply online and not in person but we could never access the site. Again we gave up. When my husband and I needed to apply for a pension our financial planner came with us. My husband and I were spoken ‘down to’ until our companion introduced himself and the attitude changed. Our pension application was then dealt with without a problem.

  13. Phil

    Centrelink seems to be intentionally raising hurdles and barriers to citizen access to social services. This fits with the Liberals callous belief that those seeking any form of welfare are to be regarded as undeserving. Its a cruel and inhumane approach that fits perfectly with the governments approach to asylum seekers, indigenous people, and domestic violence. The Liberal government’s game is to make contact with Centrelink so demeaning, so difficult and so utterly frustrating that people just give up. What a callous nation we have become under Liberal rule.

    I’m forwarding Faceless Man’s letter to Bill Shorten as I am hoping others will too – and thanks to Bighead for the links.

  14. RayH

    Centrelink is being run down to a bear minimum they don’t employ new people when the old ones leave ,

  15. Lyn Barrett Henderson

    This Government has cut so much money out of centrelink staff both at centrelink centres and staff to answer phones.They have cut funding for DSP and I imagine things like carers pensions. One of the online media’s had an article today about the number of people that the Government have managed to get off DSP today. Off the top of my head is something like 180 thousand.. Common sense would tell us that a lot of people who need this pension have been denied it.

    I believe the rules the Coulton have put Centreline in between the a rock and hard place that prevents them giving them the service they were able to provide. I believe you have got caught up in similar situation. We have to get so vocal that we cannot be ignored.

  16. sue

    Excellent advice, Leonetwo. Whether it is a government department or agency, a private sector body (such as an electricity company) or just your local council, always go straight to the top. The internet is a great resource for finding emails and phone numbers and you should feel free to use them. I used to be a senior executive and I understand the power of getting a senior person’s attention – I have used that strategy myself and it works.. The other useful bit of advice is to find a local member of parliament (preferably one who is a member of a standing committee that interrogates Centrelink during Senate Estimates hearings) who is known to get things done and ask for her/his help. Don’t bother writing to government ministers – as you probably know, they will not see your letter and you will receive a form response from an adviser or a junior person in their department. Good luck with it.

  17. Deanna Jones

    So sorry to hear of your circumstances, faceless man. Centrelink is a hideously incompetent apparatus to have to deal with as an individual. In my early days as a young single mother I developed such anxiety around Centrelink that even now the very word creates a physical reaction despite no longer being at their mercy. Leonetwo’s advice is excellent. To keep you going you can also access emergency relief money from your local non government welfare agency. They may also be able to advocate for you. An internet search should help you locate them. Also, is your local aged care assessment team involved at all?

    I would also ask Centrelink staff to print out and give you copies of every face to face conversation you have with them. Indicate this at the beginning of every visit to ensure that they are recording your interaction accurately. You will need to book an appointment with the social worker – this is very important.

  18. The Faceless Man

    The advice on here has been exemplary. Bighead and Leonetwo, the letters are being written and phil if you ended up forwarded my letter I thank you truly. As much as this infuriates and depresses me what angers me more is the sheer number of people like me who find it near impossible to get financial assistance. We are forced to resort to looking for work to fulfill job provider obligations that unimaginably infringe on our chaotic daily lives, or worse don’t bother and sink in the deep end, too many MND carers are diagnosed with depression and PTSD, when your being rejected by the DHS, categorized as unemployed, demonized as being a ‘leaner’ and dealing with the stresses and demands of being a carer, is it really a surprise?

    Some statistics taken directly from the Australian Carers website.

    In 2015 there were over 2.8 million unpaid carers in Australia

    770,000 carers (28.6%) are primary carers, those who provide the most informal assistance to another individual

    Females make up the majority of carers, representing 69.7% of primary carers and 56.1% of all carers

    In 2012 around 304,900 carers were less than 25 years old; 683,700 were aged 25 to 44 years; 1.1 million were aged 45 to 64; and 580,000 were aged 65 years and over

    In 2012 there were 74,900 carers aged less than 15 years and a further 231,200 carers aged 15 to 24, making up 2.8% and 8.6% of all carers in Australia

    In 2012, 674,300 carers (25.7%) were born overseas

    Of the 1.9 million co-resident carers in 2012, 45.5% were the partner of the person they cared for, 20% cared for a parent, 23.4% cared for a child and 4.2% cared for a sibling

    In 2012, 38.9% of primary carers report spending, on average, 40 hours or more per week caring. 19.5% spend between 20 and 40 hours

    27% of primary carers have been caring for 10 to 24 years, a further 7% have been in the caring role for 25 years or more

    The labour force participation rate of carers aged 15 years and over is 56.3% compared with 69.3% of non-carers

    The estimated replacement value of unpaid care provided in 2015 is $60.3 billion – over $1 billion per week, or 3.8% of Gross Domestic Product

    It is estimated that carers will provide 1.9 billion hours of unpaid care in 2015.

    Also, unverifiable as i read it sometime ago, but i read in an old article earlier this year there was around 230,000+ carers on the carers payment, costing the government less than $160 million.

    Support every carer in Australia or purchase another submarine and have plenty of tax cash to spare? “Lets go with the subs” declares king turnball

  19. Michael Taylor

    When I was a public servant (at a particular time when Gillard was PM) we were drafting legislation that recognised and rewarded carers. Each measure was opposed by the Abbott opposition.

  20. townsvilleblog

    Put simply the staff at DHS, Centrelink staff are doing what they are paid to do, and that’s implement government (LNP) policy which is anti-people, and pro corporations. We nearly made it this time.

  21. Turnthetide

    This department is the worst run department in the country. It only goes to show how little this Liberal Party give a rats about the needy in this country. The unemployed, Carers, Disabled, the elderly, the lists go on and on. The one department where staff are required desperately to be trained to assist people with all their problems, it is the first Dept that are cut to the core every election. It’s a disgrace to this country. The hours you have to wait on a phone and when you finally get through they have no idea how to assist you, not because they don’t want to, it’s because they haven’t been taught how and they don’t have enough staff! I remember working in that department years ago when the then PM was no other John Howard when he announced that all pensioners were to get 20 cents per week pay increase. I am not kidding, 20 cents per week! It cost more for the stamp to send them out. If I remember there were 385,000 letters went out and I would probably guarantee 380,000 of those came back addressed to the PM with their 20 cents taped to the envelopes. I’ll leave the rest up to your imagination. That’s how much this stinking government care about low income people of this country! I dread the day when my retirement comes around and I have to visit that disgusting place as like a lot of people I will need their assistance at some time to survive!

  22. The Faceless Man

    Dspoverseas. I contacted welfare rights earlier (3 months ago roughly) the welfare agent i spoke to said my story was horrible and to leave it with him,suffice to say he never called back.
    Welfare rights association is a toothless tiger like the UN.
    If Welfare Rights could actually do anything for its clients do you think centrelink would be as despised as it is today?

    Also the ten day expectant reply period given by the ombudsman is now on its 8th day with no response.

  23. win jeavons

    Years ago we had a problem with this mob; it was only sorted when we asked our local MP to help. Fair enough, since they make the rules.

  24. The Faceless Man

    Not that anyone is still reading this but if they are well you might be interested to know that I was knocked back by the ombudsman with the excuse that the NSW govt doesn’t fund centrelink. How convenient. Well it’s under the bus I go. Never to be seen again.

  25. Turnthetide

    Go right to the top sir. Go to the papers or to your MP. Someone will notice you sooner or later. Just threaten, then they will take notice. You are right on one thing, They don’t bloody well care!

  26. Anon E Mouse

    For Centrelink matters the Commonwealth ombudsman is the one you need to go too. There should be a contact point for the ombudsman on Clink’s page, or I am sure google will help.

    Oddly, it might be also worthwhile to give the outliers a go. Bob Katter’s staff can be very helpful and Clink respond to them. I assume that the likes of Xenophon might also be worthwhile.

    You could also use a scattered approach and cc all and sundry into an email.

    Another point that I know the pollies detest (because thats not the way its done, it breaks the chain of command etc…) is to write to the minister/s personally. Direct it to their name and mark it private and confidential.
    Email it and most importantly post it.
    If you really want to go hard core, register it so that you get notification that they got it and that it was signed for at pick up.

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