A FEW months back, empty pockets and an ill-timed bus schedule forced a Waterline couple to hitch hike to their Centrelink appointment in Wonthaggi. They couldn't get a lift all the way so much of the journey was on foot. They still managed to turn up half way through their allotted time slot. Too late. They were kicked off the dole.
For several years Centrelink has been increasing the burden on recipients while decreasing the amenity of the service. Long queues and lengthy phone calls are now standard. Many people confronted by these inquisitions are not well served by technology and an adversarial system.
There are so many tales: people with disabilities struggling to get what they are entitled to; full time carers treated like scammers as their loved ones wither away. People with major illness and impairment having their cases reviewed by doctors at the end of a phone.
Many recipients are attending unnecessary meetings that do nothing other than supply reasons to be cut off. Hard enough if you live in a town like Wonthaggi with a Centrelink office, often very difficult for those living on scant incomes and with limited transport options in Grantville or Pioneer Bay.
More than a few people don't have internet access at home so they use the computers at their local library. Last year I sat next to a parent, with three young children in tow, working through an on-line change of circumstance form. He took over an hour and was guided by a call centre. I could hear their advice, which was neither constructive nor intuitive. Privacy?
Nationally manufacturing jobs are few and far between. Locally there is constant pressure on farmers to decrease their labour inputs. With the rise of unemployment and casual employment, an increasing number of us are likely to interact with Centrelink at some stage. All of us deserve fairness and respect.
Is your job service provider working for you? Corinella Community Centre, Monday, August 7, from 11am. Share your experiences with representatives from the Wonthaggi, Morwell and Melbourne branches of the AUWU. There'll be light snacks and refreshments.