“A system designed not to help the disabled but to knee-cap the handicapped”

Trans-Ed or Foundation Skills as it is otherwise known, targets ‘transitioning’ welfare recipients including those on disability payments ‘ toward work’ as part of the government’s ongoing policy of war on welfare.

The scheme comes in two stages of nine months for each stage. For the agencies, contracted at $15,000 per head, the goal is to run the DSP recipient through both courses and reap between $300-360,000 of government subsidies per class of 20.

Like Work for the Dole, the new regulations governing payments to the handicapped are sold under the guise of ‘providing opportunity’, ‘helping the disabled gain entry to the work-force’ or ‘giving youth a chance to learn new skills’, when in fact the scheme is simply an extension of the same welfare bashing snake oil in a new bottle.

Bullying and authoritarianism were the order of the day. During the early weeks of the course I was constantly reminded by management to “get tough on ‘em, don’t be too soft”.

It wasn’t long before I witnessed the ‘get tough on ‘em’ policy in action.

“Margret”, a woman in her mid-50s suffered from crippling depression. Wan and frail with heavy dark circles under her eyes, she told me that she had to force herself to leave the house. As a result she was often late or absent from class.

On a day she managed to attend, the course co-ordinator was taking the class. The co-ordinator immediately flew into her and began a tirade about punctuality, and “mutual obligation”. Margret was ushered into an interview room, she was joined by her case-officer.

I watched for half an hour as the the two of them brow-beat and bullied the unfortunate woman for the crime of arriving late to class. When Margret left, she never returned.

A few weeks later, her case officer approached me to tell me Margret had been breached (loss of all payments) for three months.

There were those suffering from epilepsy, depression, and heart conditions which, under the new guidelines, do not exclude them from looking for a job or doing voluntary work. I witnessed a gentle bear of a man have an epileptic seizure, and talented young artist shaking like a leaf during a panic attack. Both had their claims for disability payment rejected.

Davina, a woman in her early sixties, suffered a heart attack one week-end and similarly to Daniel Blake was left in limbo while her claim for DSP was processed. She scrambled desperately to be allowed to re-join the course but was rebuffed by the management “because we don’t want her having a another heart attack on the premises.”

When I left the job, Davina was still in limbo and in all likelihood has had her claim for DSP rejected and remains on Newstart with the requirement of looking for 40 jobs a month.

At the end of the course, the DS provider picked up a cheque for $180,000 of the tax payers’ hard earned for the twelve remaining learners in the course and were paid pro-rata for the eight who had either dropped out, or like Margret and Davina, had been forced out.

The learners were handed a piece of laminated cardboard bearing the DS providers logo and assured the world that the above named had attained completion of Transitional Education Stage One.

A $15,000 government funded ‘qualification’ for participating in an employment program which provides as many real world skills as an egg and spoon race.

The three learners classified as intellectually disabled were offered a place in stage two of the Trans-Ed program, the rest were told that they could take a ‘discounted’ Jobactive Provider approved course -Hospitality, Aged Care – at their own expense.

The corruption and inefficient practices the privatized, profit seeking employment agencies has been well documented in the mainstream media and long since exposed as fraud in both Australia and the UK.

The largest slice of the government subsidies pie to the JNS/DSP system is spent on executive salaries, and the car parks of the “not-for-profit” providers resemble show-rooms for late model fuck-off size Beamer’s and Benz.

The catch is that under the government’s new guidelines, the focus is on the 11.3% of the disabled clinically diagnosed as having mental or behavioral disabilities can qualify for DS payment, leaving the 83.9% of the physically disabled to the tender mercies of the job network providers and a private sector unable or unwilling to provide the necessary infrastructure to accommodate disabled employees.

In short, a system designed not to help the disabled but to knee-cap the handicapped.