I have written here once before on being bullied badly by my disability employment agency but this time I will name and shame.
Where do I start?
A lot happened in 10 years.
I have a history of working in an industry that requires compassion as one of the essential requirements and so bring to my work a perspective based on that compassion.
Years ago in the first round of job network, I found myself unemployed and referred to a Job Network Member (JNM). A young lass 10 years my junior was assigned to me, who felt more than comfortable telling me what to do and how to do it despite my having more experience at job seeking. This experience was insulting, humiliating and embarrassing to the point where I thought I can do better than this…. much, much better. Please keep in mind that despite doing little else than commanding me to be compliant, the JNM expected me to inform them of when I gained employment so that they could receive their payment from the government…. for what? I certainly did not have any individualised or practical help that led directly to my job, my contract was not negotiated, and I was threatened with penalties.
Getting a job I did all on my own in spite of the JNM, certainly not as a result of their presence in my life. All I got from my JNM was what I call “the Attitude”, where every single client was frowned upon and treated like a second class citizen. We were talked down to, patronised, given platitudes and offers of help that never came, we weren’t treated as individuals, I rather felt like cattle being walked through to the slaughter house.
So, after a long, arduous and emotionally painful slog, I managed to gain a short contract as a case manager, where the JNM has one year to work with a client in helping them to secure employment. I was also studying to get my Workplace trainer and assessor – now TAE – at the same time. The contract was not renewed and I was very happy that it wasn’t. The people at the JNM were just as judgemental and critical of their client base as was the JNM I attended. I was constantly being remonstrated for trying to help everyone on my caseload and redirected to breaking up my caseload into 3 categories:
1. Those who would get a job without my help
2. Those who would get a job with my help and
3. The “unemployable”
I was instructed to:
Ignore group 1 and just keep tabs on them in order to make a claim,
Assist group 2 and keep tabs on them in order to make a claim, and
To ignore group 3 all together.
This assessment was all based on a 1 hour interview! Needless to say, I was shocked by the arrogance of it all and the rest.
I then found employment with another JNM as a Job Search Trainer (JST), where the JNM has only 3 weeks in which to assist clients to secure employment. The site was in the red and failing, my first group consisted of 2 people not the required 15. I received half a day of on the job training and then left to my own devices and very little to work with, just a proforma manual that was issued to the clients and no other resources whatsoever! The clients were sitting in the main area reading the daily newspapers and failing to look for work. The site was dead and dull with no energy or atmosphere. If anything, it was dark, depressing and heavy with despair. The JST was expected to run a full day on Fridays and sign up 15 individuals in-between all that; hardly conducive to providing a quality service to ones clients. So, I embarked on an overhaul introducing things like group sign ups, where the introduction to the service, explaining the contract and the expectations of the clients and the JNM were introduced over a 1 hour period to the whole group that included question time and then the opportunity to actually sit and discuss the contract at private and individualised sessions thereafter. I also offered my clients the option of signing the contract on the spot if they felt comfortable doing so as I felt that this too was being mindful of respecting their time and individual desires/needs. Prior to the Friday morning, I would call each client individually reminding them of their appointment with me (this was not being done). I did this not only to increase attendance but to minimise breaching which was mandatory on failure to attend. If my clients couldn’t make it I would explain to them that they had already signed a contract with Centrelink agreeing to participate and that they ran the risk of a breach. I would then instruct them on how to provide me with evidence for their file and re-arrange another appointment: rather than what was previously happening which was instant breaches for non-attendance. I wouldn’t just stress what was required of my clients, I would also tell them what was required of me and what formed part of my job description, by giving my clients this information, I was empowering them to avoid any penalties such as a breach of contract. In short, I did everything I legally could to assist them in making informed choices. I did also give them the choice to receive a breach, which surprisingly some of them actually chose, despite my efforts to encourage them to attend and avoid it. I did not limit my classes to JST, I invited our only case manager to refer their clients to my class as well. We had the spare seats available and it made no difference to my how many clients were referred as they would eventually go back to the case manager for follow up with the actual job search. I also invited my colleague who did job matching to do the same, basically any client who accessed the site was welcome.
Another change I introduced was stripping the newspapers of any content other than job adverts and the rest of the newspaper went to a local vet for pet litter. This needed to happen in order to stop clients from being distracted by the daily news, the lack of job seeking activity was adding to the depression associated with failing to find employment. Instead, I made myself present in the main room, sat at the same table with them and physically helped them with their job search. I rewrote many of the subjects so that they were easily digestible and to reproduce and assessed each client on competency, ensuring that they were walking away with a skill for the future, rather than someone writing their resume for them. I used workshopping not lecture style training and did a needs analysis before every single topic and modified training to each group each week (easy enough to do if you know your material). In doing this the clients wrote their own material (resumes, application letters etc.) and had much of the say in how they represented themselves to employers, they weren’t taught things they already knew. I was simply there to edit and advise. If I had a particularly diverse group, I would ask permission of the more advanced clients if I could buddy them up with those who needed a little more guidance. I introduced having access to tea and coffee just like many employees have at work and also introduced the 3 job limit. Centrelink contracts then stated that if a client was able to perform a job recommended for them, regardless of what it was, then they were obliged to attend an interview or face a breach. An extreme example would be someone with a doctorate being forced to attend an interview to sort recycling. One does not need to be an Einstein to see how that would end. So, I introduced a goal setting topic that encouraged my clients to choose either 3 diverse jobs in the same industry or the same job in 3 different industries. By returning the choice of employment back to them, I was returning power back to them, thereby increasing their motivation and hope for securing gainful employment. By providing a limit, their energies were not spread too thin, yet they could still play the numbers game to increase their chances of success.
Remember, I had none of this when I was a client myself, but I wish I had.
By the time I had settled into this second job, the main room was buzzing with energy and activity, we were achieving and often exceeding our 15 client target and we were getting outcomes that met the employers KPI’s and that were also directly in line with the desires of the individual client, thus resulting in job retention. There was laughter and camaraderie, there was support and activity, there was self paced and self motivated and above there was hope.
In all my time with this second company, only 2 clients wound up returning and they specifically said they wanted me personally to assist them. Every so often a group of clients would “reward” me for my efforts. One group even held a ceremony and gave me a certificate of achievement, which I still have and hold dear. We were a small team at this site and so it wasn’t too hard to influence my colleagues in treating the clients with dignity and respect. The outcomes we achieved as from something so simple as compassion, resulted in my bringing the site back into the black, we survived that tender round and were set to move on to the next round. My managers, however, could not see eye to eye with me. This too was a short lived contract of only one year. I did visit some time later, I can’t remember what for, and the site was back to the dark, depressing den of despair. That site closed down on the next tender round after mine, for failing to achieve the minimum 3 stars.
There was a third company but that job placement did not last long. Again management disagreed with how I perceived my clients, sadly I cannot repeat what I saw going on at that site as these activities would be best described as illegal and wroughting the system. I didn’t last long as I couldn’t be a part of that.
Then I went to Centrelink, 40 jobs were vacant and 3,500 people applied; I was one of the successful candidates. The staff were good to me and did not want me to leave, they even encouraged me to transfer to a more suitable department, but you cannot be compassionate and work at Centrelink and survive.
I DO believe that the majority of folk on unemployment benefits would rather be working; one must remember that I have, more than once, been one of those folk myself. Yet, working at Centrelink, I also did have dishonest customers who either did not need benefits and had worked out legal loopholes, or those who were simply working in the black and receiving benefits as well, with their employers as willing accomplices. This too was a one year stint, I found that in order to protect myself emotionally, I was becoming dispassionate and, yes, this was as a direct result of the dishonest clients. They were very good at fooling a bleeding heart like me. It was only after the mandatory financial investigations, that were a direct result of working in an office in an affluent part of town, that we discovered hidden or redistributed funds or people working in the black. …and here I was thinking that these poor people were as desperate as they claimed to be. Of course I had genuine people who were needy present to me; but what I found astonishing was how many folk really were trying to manipulate the system. I mean really. Being a compassionate person I was able to develop trust. I had people volunteering what “naughty” things they were doing. I had to leave, I couldn’t cover for them, I personally would have been held legally liable if I did, yet how can one be compassionate to a customer who has millions when the next customer has zero? So, one becomes cold, hard and distant. Yet, I stress that this is a survival mechanism, staff at Centrelink don’t start out the way they end up.
You may have noticed a thread happening here. I just could not find a place in the Job Network, now Job Active system that lent itself to a compassionate individual who treated their clients with the dignity and respect that one would want for themselves. My approach was either not tolerated or abused. To say that I was starting to lose heart is an understatement. Yet, my own past personal experience was so intense that it spurred me on to continue.
My final destination before returning to – we’ll call it my compassionate work – was a very large JNM; I was with them for many years. Again, the site I started at had nothing, not even a client manual. I had to draw on my past experience and create a whole new department single handedly with no training. I did have support insofar as my first line manager was an understanding individual who had an open door policy, but other than that for the first year I was on my own. This was where I felt “the attitude” again, from the staff.
Now this is most probably something I should not say out loud, more so for the distress that it will cause, but… all I ever heard in the lunch room was staff disparaging their clients. Never once in all my years working in JN did I hear a positive thing said about a client. I was constantly astonished at how well staff had mastered the ability to find fault even when a person presented well. I would often speak up in defence of the clients. Sadly, this did not lead to any changes in attitude, rather, I was shunned, spurred, no longer tolerated and often the source of their bitching and gossiping. Luckily, we were in a large enough premises that I could effectively operate in isolation… and I did, for many years. Such was my belief that one can achieve better than expected results simply by being humane, that I stuck it out to prove a point. Not only had my own personal experience left an indelible memory, but it was the principle as well. The irony is that I was most likely the only staff member actually practising the code of conduct and respecting the clients rights.
Job Network then – I can’t speak for Job Active now – was a high turn over industry, I am guessing from the pressure placed upon its members to achieve targets. I can’t say that I ever felt that pressure, as I truly believe I had stumbled upon the recipe to success. All and any new staff were trained by me and lesson one was dignity and respect! Lesson two was walk a mile in their shoes. Every staff member I ever trained was asked have you ever sat in that chair? When they answered no, I informed them that I had and that my experience was so bad that I intended to do better. This usually worked at getting their attention. Sadly, you can’t fight the herd mentality. Once those individuals left my tutelage to progress with the company, I found that they folded and yielded to the toxic culture of disparagement. The pressure to conform, to fit in, to avoid being treated the way that I was is so intense that even those who know better or those with the best of intentions yield. Eventually, I gave up and returned to my previous career.
I did once again find myself unemployed, sadly we cannot predict how the wheel of fortune turns, and where once there was prosperity, all of a sudden there can be abject poverty. Again I was at the mercy of a JNM. When the manager looked at my resume, they remarked in astonishment that I could teach them a thing or two. Sadly, this individual did not tweak that it was only by the grace of God that they too did not find themselves in my shoes. I was forced, yes, with the threat of a breach to study Job searching techniques in hard copy and provide evidence that I had done so. I called the authorities to complain, they agreed with my complaint and yet failed to achieve a meaningful outcome for me. I received, no assistance whatsoever, and yet was constantly made to comply with time wasting activities that directly impacted negatively on my job search. What is it they say? The more things change the more they stay the same? Anyway, once again, via my own efforts and with no thanks to a JNM who couldn’t even achieve something as basic as getting a confirmation; I found my own employment single handedly.
The population on benefits is so diverse, that it is hard to tell the needy from the greedy, the honest from the dishonest, those able to represent themselves well and those unable to. Assets tests can be manipulated or a horrible mistake made. Working an illegal job without paying tax is made easy when employers are willing accomplices and yet under employment is on the rise as a result of bona fide employers restructuring to meet the needs of a changing job market. Being forced by JNM’s to jump through hoops that one has been teaching for 10 years regardless of staff stating in astonishment, “you probably know more than me” so that they can meet their legal requirements whilst at the same time failing to provide meaningful assistance all speaks to a flawed and complicated system.
So… it isn’t perfect, it can be a nightmare to navigate through, it can be emotionally damaging and it can wreak financial hardship rather than assuaging it; but from one who has been on every single side of the system, I can say this.
I am so very grateful we at least have one.
I am waiting to hear back about my request to transfer away from my current Disability Employment Services Providers. I submitted three different transfer requests to various agencies via the mutual consent forms filled out by myself and my current provider at an appointment roughly 2-3 weeks ago.
I have tried calling 1800 805 260 but it seems the line is closed after 3pm, and not open before 9am, or the call is simply blocked from going through on the occasions I have tried to call.
Because, when I completed the transfer forms I was in an appointment with my provider, I did not feel able to describe my reasons for requesting transfer aside from “relationship breakdown”. There are numerous reasons, resulting in an overall inability to be serviced by my current provider.
1. They have not responded to my written complaints/feedback at all, or even acknowledged them.
2. In the short time I have been with AtWork, they have changed my case manager at least five or six times. They included: Karen, Fleur, Lisi, Claire, Laura?, and others whose names I don’t recall (n o business cards or direct lines to case managers were ever given to me despite my requests). OFTEN, appointments were cancelled without notice and I when I turned up I had to be seen by someone else totally new to me, and who didn’t appear to know anything about me either. This has made it impossible to develop a relationship or rapport with a case manager and each time I feel like I’m making some progress, I have to start all over again with someone new.
3. With my previous job provider MAX Employment, I had the same case managers for years and felt like my unique challenges were being understood, and I was being helped.
4. None of my case managers with AtWork displayed ANY interest in my disability or my vulnerabilities, with the exception of one case worker – Lisi – who I gave positive feedback about to AtWork. Unfortunately Lisi is no longer employed there.
5. The last appointment I had with AtWork was, in my opinion, emotional abuse. I was told that I do not have a disability, because if I did I would be on the Disability Support Pension. The disinterest, and blatant disregard for my disability, by my DISABILITY Employment Services Provider, has left me feeling despondent, disengaged, and even suicidal. I will never be able to work with this provider again, and I refuse to return to the place that now consumes me with anxiety.
6. During my last ESAT (?), the health professional noted that I have significant functional impairments, and encouraged me to pursue my goal of self-employment from a modified home-based work environment whether my DSP claim was successful or not. This health professional recommended that I transfer to a job provider who specialises in mental health disabilities, and who would be able to help me return to work from a home based business, should my DSP claim be rejected (which it ultimately was). This health professional said the new provider would be instructed to help me with this specific employment pathway, and I would be able to apply for the NEIS program even with a disability affecting my work capacity.
7. AtWork began forcing me to apply for a seemingly arbitrary number of jobs per month, even though I tried to make clear that my disability prevents me from being a serious applicant for pretty much any job, and I have NEVER had this requirement before, despite being engaged with Disability Employment Services Providers for roughly six years, and I felt very uncomfortable applying for jobs that I knew I couldn’t do, and knew would be wasting the time of the employer. The fact that I have never been made to do this job search activity before with my previous DES providers, is likely because they understood the nature of my disability (or perhaps Centrelink instructed them to exempt me, I really have no idea).
8. I applied for the NEIS program myself and completed the pre-NEIS Cert III Micro Business Operations training course in September. AtWork forced me to attend appointments even though I was doing a full-time training course through a Centrelink program.
9. After completing the training course my case manager at the time (Fleur) told me “we might have to think of something else you can do because you don’t seem really passionate about it”. This was in stark contrast to the really amazing NEIS trainers who were very excited about my business idea, and had nothing but praise for my demonstrated work. I got the distinct feeling that AtWork were just trying to keep me in their system, discourage me, and get as many appointments out of me as possible, so they get paid.
10. AtWork refused to pay for any of the training courses, classes, or professional development that I wanted to do to better help me return to work. They tried to get me to do courses with their affiliate RTOs that were not related to my employment efforts and that I expressed no interest in doing.
I really do hope that these reasons are enough to switch me back to my old provider MAX Employment, because there’s a very real possibility that I will end up in far worse health, and with far worse employment prospects if I am forced to stay with AtWork against my will.
Thankyou for your time,
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.
I am 58 years old now and I lost my full time job on the first of June, 2011. I was working for Borders when they went under. I ran the music and movie department and I was very happy there. I went to Centrelink and registered as unemployed. I was case managed by Mission Australia, who never referred me to a single job and only seemed to be there to torment me into a job. I did the TESOL (Teaching English as a Second Language) at the Adelaide College of TAFE. Mission Australia initially told me that they’d help pay the $3,500 for the course, then two weeks later, after I’d paid for the course with my own money, they told me that they would not help me pay for the course. While I was doing my TESOL course I was notified by Mission Australia that I would have to attend a three week course on the subject of preparing for and going to job interviews, this was when I was halfway through my TAFE course. I politely but firmly told them that I would be unable to attend their course because I was already studying four days per week for the next few months. They rescheduled the course until after I’d finished with TAFE. I subsequently did the three week course and was no wiser at the end of it. I have been both an employee and a business own in my life and I could have run through the course offered to me in a single day, if I was asked to do so. The course interfered with my life, was time consuming and offered nothing of value. Eventually, I asked to be moved to a different job agency. I found Mission Australia made no effort to help me at all and only existed to make money from the government for bothering and threatening the unemployed.
In 2014 I was moved to PVS Jobfind in Kilkenny, Adelaide. It was right next door to Mission Australia. The place was a little different. For starters everyone who worked at Mission Australia seemed to be a woman under the age of 25. I was seen by a man at PVS, admittedly a rather young man who seemed reasonably sympathetic. I went to PVS once per month and let them know about my physical and mental declines (I have chronic cellulitis in my right leg, clinical depression, I am subject to panic and anxiety attacks and I have a host of other symptoms).
Then on the 23rd of February, 2015, a bomb went off. A very big bomb indeed. The ABC television program, 4 Corners, did an exposé on job agency industry entitled “The Jobs Game”. I invite you to watch it here, if you haven’t already seen it: http://www.abc.net.au/
Shortly after this program aired, both Mission Australia and PVS as well as another job agency vanished from their offices at Kilkenny in Adelaide and presumably from elsewhere as well.
So, for six months I was in limbo, which didn’t bother me in the slightest. I was very ill and getting worse and I have many things that were concerning me and looking for jobs was a low priority. Then, out of the blue, I found myself referred to a place with the grand name of Jobs Statewide. This place seemed a little more gung-ho than the two previous places I had been to, but it still seemed to be staffed by ex-checkout chicks and night-fill lads from a suburban supermarket. I was told that I would have to come in twice each month, and even though this is 2.1 kilometres from my home, there are no convenient bus or train routes and to get their I either had to shell out for a taxi or catch a train into the city and then walk some distance for a bus to the Arndale shopping centre, where Jobs Statewide is located. I implored them to do my interviews by phone, because of my declining health and there answer was a firm “no can do.” My doctor gave me an three month exemption from looking for work, which helped me get my life in order a little.
By mid 2016 my health, both mental and physical was in sharp decline. Over the last four years I have attempted suicide five times. My ex-wife left me for another man in 2010 and this was just the beginning of my decline. I had a series of medical tests performed on me and it was discovered that in addition of depression and cellulitis, I have diverticulitis, very low testosterone levels, I am losing red blood cells at a prodigious rate, I have severe anemia and will require regular infusions of blood, I have a thyroid condition, fatty liver, an inflamed oesophagus, my blood sugar levels are out of whack and, to top it all off, I have glaucoma and I have already lost 30% of my vision in my left eye. My GP, who is a very kind and understanding man, has suggested to me that I go on disability until my health improves or if it improves, which is doubtful.
So, in October of this year (2016), after a lot of blood, sweat and tears, the head office of Jobs Statewide admitted that I would probably be better served to a job agency that catered for my needs and Status Employment was offered to me. It is located in Dale Street of Port Adelaide and I can get there by train. I live directly across from the West Croydon railway station. However, the offices of Status Employment are, for me, a considerable walk and getting there from the railway station is very painful for me.
So, two Fridays ago, I set off for my 13:30 appointment with Status Employment. I got there fifteen minutes early, hoping to get the interview over and done with as quickly as possible. However, I was informed that the person who was to interview me was at lunch. She finally saw me forty minutes later. I was again confronted by a girl who I estimate wasn’t even as old as my oldest son, Chris, who recently turned twenty four. I was proudly told that Status doesn’t have a “get ’em in, get ’em out” attitude and they prefer to spend time with their victims…… ahem! … I mean “clients”! I was duly told what are my obligations and what I must do (I was alarmed at how often the word “must” came up in the conversation vis-à-vis my side of the deal with this organisation).
About twenty minutes into the conversation I asked this: “I am an honest Australian citizen in my late fifties. I have paid my taxes all my life and I been both an employer and employee. So what exactly are my human rights here, as an Australian citizen?”
She seemed confused and I repeated my question, “What are my rights here?”
She answered that we will get to those towards the end of the interview.
We got toward the end of the interview and I was told a number of things, including:
1. I must attend an interview with Status Employment every two weeks.
2. I must choose an activity which including weekly attendance at a “job club” or a “work for the dole scheme” or do “fifteen hours of volunteer work per week” or do a Centrelink approved further education course.
3. I must sign a job plan then and there on the spot.
After two unproductive hours (in my humble opinion) I was ready to sign this accursed “job plan” just so that I could get home and rest. I again asked about my human rights and this made the young lady fidget with her pen even more. However, she could not answer my question. Or maybe she would not? Who knows!?
I apologised to the young woman who interviewed me and said that it must be very tiresome to have to interview a cranky old so-and-so like me on a Friday afternoon when she is probably thinking about what she’s going to be doing on the weekend. She told me that I was actually unusually polite and that I wasn’t a problem at all. She also told me that there are jobs out there for anyone who wants them. I had to suppress a snigger at that.
However, I did tell her that I felt like a newly released convict who was being interviewed by a probation officer to make sure I hadn’t been naughty in the past week instead of a dignified late middle aged Australian citizen who has lead a productive and law abiding life.
So, it has come to this. Poor and unemployed Australians are to be “motivated” by threatening to take money away from us and wealthy Australians are to be motivated by giving them more money?
Yesterday, the 17th of November, I was required to see the same woman I saw a fortnight ago at Status Employment. In the interim I had posted on Status Employment’s Facebook page that they should make it clear to their clients precisely what their rights are because I wasn’t told when I saw them. Strangely, they approved the post and when I last checked, it was still there.
So yesterday I was told that I must choose an activity and that it is binding upon me to undertake an activity in order to receive my unemployment benefits, which were hard won by the Australian union movement in the 1940s.
Sir Robert Menzies in 1944: “People should be able to obtain these benefits as a matter of right, with no more loss of their own standards of self-respect than would be involved in collecting from an insurance company the proceeds of an endowment policy on which they have been paying premiums for years.”
Unemployment benefits are not a privilege or a luxury, they are a basic human right in Australia. Never let anyone convince you otherwise.
Back to Status Employment. Because I can’t do much and I am waiting for further medical tests, I chose to do a “Job club” once each week. These things are essentially pointless and a waste of time, especially for someone like me who is not really able to work.
I told the woman who interviewed me again that I am not at all happy about the way I am being treated and she just said that she doesn’t make the rules, she only follows them (and enforces them, which she didn’t say)
“Ah!”, I said, “The Nuremberg Defence! – we were just following orders!”
Needless to say, this remark was lost on her.
I left Status Employment wondering what sort of country I had woken up in and why the poor and unemployed are being treated like this? People are rightfully indignant about the way Australia shoves refugees onto islands in the Pacific, but what of the many thousands of Australian citizens who are being punished, threatened, inconvenienced, humiliated and simply having their lives ruined by harsh government policies?
I have contacted Mr. Mark Butler and had a very good conversation with his staff about these issues. I also contacted the office of Mr. Bill Shorten, the leader of the federal opposition and had a very productive conversation about my situation and the situation of thousands of my compatriots. And finally I had two very productive conversations with the good folks at the Australian Unemployed Workers Union, who actually took the time to inform me of what my rights actually are, as opposed to the woman who interviewed me at Status Employment, Port Adelaide, where she either didn’t know what are my rights or deliberately concealed them or simply tried to bamboozle me with paperwork and threats.
On the sound advice of the Australian Unemployed Workers Union, I have emailed Status Employment to get my Job Plan renegotiated in the light of my new knowledge of my rights. So far, I haven’t heard from them.
If any of you wish to contact me, my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and my mobile number is 0413354470. I am available around the clock.
Goodbye and good luck.
Just to let you know I had Sue ####### from your ######## site as My Disability Job Provider. I was told your service would help me gain employment and support me in my new job. The one positive thing I could say she did for me was sent me to a seminar that was about a course United Care Wesley was offering to gain employment with them as a support worker.
I was sent to a disability employment provider for a mood disorder (anxiety and depression) and for a permanent spinal condition. On my first meeting with Sue, she had discussed with me my disability and what sort of things I could and could not do. I explained to her that I would need a job that I could do a combination of sitting and standing and a job that did not involved a lot of cleaning, heavy lifting or had constant repetitive movement was not suitable.
As much as Sue herself would like to claim the credit herself, I had to compete with approximately 100 other people for 14 places United Care Wesley had to offer. They had said at the seminar if we gained employment with them that we would be able to pick and choose the work we wanted to do, and also said that a big majority of the work they had to offer was for what they call domestic in which involves helping elderly people do jobs in their home such as cleaning so that they can remain in their home for as long as possible. So if we did not opt in for domestic we may not get the hours we wanted and domestic shifts were a god way to build up your working hours. My initial thought was I had nothing to loose although I can not do cleaning it was a good start to getting a job and that even though it may take some time to build up on the amount of clients I get once I had a little experience I could also apply for other support worker jobs at different agencies.
Well I got into course and gained employment with my hard work and effort I put in to getting into and completing course. Through doing course I found that I was interested in going on to do some more study in mental health and that would also be able to help increase my hours and employ ability.
From there everything went pear shaped no thanks to your Job Provider whose job is not only to help me gain suitable and sustainable employment but also to support me in my new job. On my initial starting day we were handed forms to fill out and one of those being what jobs we wanted, I ticked all the boxes except for domestic as I knew I would not be able to do due to amount of pain it would cause me due to my spinal condition. Up to around week 5 to 6 the jobs they offered me were all respite or social visits. After that I started to get domestic shifts In which I was told today I got rostered for domestic shifts because Sue had constantly been calling them and telling them to I had to have 23 hours a week. I was also aware of this as my supervisor Heather had mentioned Sue had called her and that she constantly gets harassed by these job providers. Talk about these so called employment agencies putting off potential employers from hiring anybody from a Job Provider, don’t they think employers have more important things to do than be harassed by job providers.
From there I had constantly complained to Sue that I was starting to get a lot of domestic shifts in which I was really starting to struggled with and causing me a lot of pain, and had also asked her on nearly every appointment she made with me if she could contact my employer and explain to them my condition and why I had not opted in for domestic shifts. Still to this day she did not contact them as I had asked and eventually all was becoming way to much for me and I had to do it myself even though I thought it would be much better coming from her.
On top of her not doing her job and making sure that I was not in employment that was not going to irritate my condition which is her obligation to me. I had her treat me when I was telling her something like I was a liar which happened constantly. She would always cut me off when talking and never let me finish what I was saying, was making me do way more of everything even though every fortnight I had worked enough hours to have my mutual obligations halved and on some fortnights should have had none and whenever I tried approaching her on my mutual obligations she would say I was wrong and did not know what I was talking about, even though I have a current copy dated 12 September 2016 of the Mutual Obligations and job plan guideline which included people with a P.C.W (Partial Capacity to Work). One week I got the flu and she was demanding I had a doctor certificate in her office by 4pm that day. Often did not give me sufficient notice when making an appointment with me sending me a text message at 4.45pm informing me I had an appointment the following morning or making appointments with me and not even bother to call me to make sure it was a convenient time that I was not working. Making me apply for jobs I was unqualified for or unsuitable due to my condition. Every week was a constant battle with her and she would not let you express your rights or oblige by them.
On one particular week she called me on a Monday morning asking if I could go in there for job search I told her I was working that day and that with my work commitments that week and mum going into hospital for a major operation that it really was not a good week for me. I also explained that the operation Mum was having was major and very high risk and that the only surgeon that would even touch my Mum had told her there was a high chance she may not survive the surgery. I told her that I was working until 2pm Tuesday and after that would be going to be spending rest of afternoon with my Mum and that I was also working Wednesday but wanted to go to hospital after that and said I would be to anxious that day and I had full days work Thursday and Friday. Sue then insisted that I had not been there for last 3 weeks (in which I had she was one failing to record it) and not only did I have one appointment I had two and was insisting that I be there both on the Tuesday and Wednesday. What an uncompassionate bitch who also has the power to decide if my circumstances in not being able to attend are on reasonable grounds.
Then finally after every week of having to argue with her about my rights and her not sticking by her obligations to me, bullying me and the phone call she made last Tuesday to my work making a complete fool off me, causing me to break down crying in her office and a huge screaming match, I am now unemployed. She finally broke me down and caused my depression and anxiety to come back (that when going to her in only February this year was something after 3 years was nearly completely over) I was informed by my employer that Sue had told them that I was unsuited to mental health work and even if I was to do course would at this stage not consider me for (because phone call Sue had made) So had no choice but to resign as only work they could offer me now was domestic in which I can not do.
This was the totally unprofessional behavior In which I have had to deal with. She was suppose to be supporting me with and not causing me even more stress and anxiety. Who the hell is she to phone my employer after months of her breaking me down and treating me unfairly as well as denying me of my rights and not meeting her obligations to tell my employer I am unsuitable for mental health work when she cant even do her own job professionally and properly. What qualification and how much does this bitch know about me to be the judge on what I am and am not suited for and totally fuck up my job and bring me back into total depression.
I now have to find another Job Provider and the thought of that now makes me feel anxious as I have just been totally screwed over and worn down by an unfair system as well as a Disability Job Provider whom does not seem to care that her clients have a disability and not sensitive to their needs and seems only to care about the bonuses you get for when people meet their required hours who have a disability. I think it only fair to say she is TOTALLY UNSUITABLE to be a disability job provider. I now have depression and anxiety in which I struggled with for 3 years that I was almost completely over before being sent to her in February this year and what she has the nerve to say what I am suited for in which I believe is something I would have been good at.
On one last note when doing the course I met a woman called Sharon who also was doing the course and since become good friends, turns out that Sue was also her job provider until yesterday. Sharon rang me completely upset she also suffers depression and has rheumatoid arthritis, she said she had gone to see Sue that day to give her a doctor certificate and doctor had said she was unfit for work until I think Janurary 17th next year, Sue apparently said that she was still required to do job search and Sharon said we will leave that to centrelink to decide. Sue apparently threw the doctor certificate back at her and started laughing and said good luck with centrelink. This is not a joke and not the way to treat people who have an illness, injury or disability.
Will look forward to your response to my complaint and I hope that this completely insensitive bitch is dealt with accordingly
Sandor Szolnoki, AUWU Member
Attention everyone: recently i was placed into a Work for the Dole (wftd) activity which was ok basically just painting a gymnasium, the supervisors on that project were good but that activity stopped after 2 months I had completed I was risk assessment prior and even trained in manual handling.
Now I’ve been placed into a new wfd that is renovating a old house without been risk assessed which i have to attend for another 6 months and the supervisor there is basically a slave driver and non safety compliant the second day I attended on the site he instructed me to remove soil to install paving which having a short look i FOUND ASBESTOS so i refused to work in that area.
The day before I removed some material from that area and NOW there is a possibility of ME being EXPOSED to ASBESTOS I put in a incident report with my supervisor who did not believe it was ASBESTOS so he collected the ASBESTOS material and took it to a ASBESTOS MANAGEMENT CENTER with me to doubt my belief that it was.The management center CONFIRMED THAT IT IS ASBESTOS AND ALSO WILL BE TESTED FOR GRADE and the dwelling was on the asbestos register but all asbestos was supposed to have been removed and there was a warning sticker on the window of the wfd house which my supervisor removed which stated before commencing work on site refer to ASBESTOS REGISTER which he did not . I have also contacted SAFE WORK SA who will be investigating the incident and I will pursuit to my best abilities I will relay they outcome of my situation as the investigation goes on so BEWARE any one who has to attend WFD and basically forced to do any unsafe work or in unsafe working conditions to avoid being cut off from centrelink benefits.
I am writing this letter on behalf of my Austistic son who has
nominated me as a spokesperson since he is on the brink of suicide
again and is unable to put his owns words into any understandable
order. I don’t even know how to deal with it myself, since he
inherited the Autism gene from me (I’m on DSP incidentally).
My son’s story to date is almost identical to Leigh Markovic’s story.
My son was first diagnosed in 2009 by our family autism specialist due
to difficulties in dealing with Centrelink and employment agencies
which caused him great despair and depression. A few months later that
specialist received accreditation as an ‘approved’ Centrelink DMV
authority who strongly recommended my son be put on DSP due to lack of
disability services within Newstart programs. Centrelink said “he’s
young enough to cope” and denied our application. A few months later
the government changed the table of provisions and as a direct result,
our family specialist is no longer approved by Centrelink.
Fortunately, we did find an industry where my son was able to cope and
possessed the skills required (and then some). His father and I
recommended he might get a foot in the door if he volunteered to sweep
floors or answer phones for a potential employer to demonstrate
initiative. The very day my son was given an opportunity to sweep
floors and answer phones voluntarily, he was meant to attend an
appointment with his employment agent. He thought he had it in the bag
and, like Leah, decided he didn’t need unemployment benefits anymore
and let it lapse.
Since prior to my son employment opportunity I was receiving a
carer-payment for him, I immediately rang Centrelink to let them know
he wasn’t living with me anymore and (as his nominee) why he felt he
didn’t need benefits anymore. The person who took my call read out
what she was writing on his records as she wrote “Mother called to
report son is working in paid employment”. I interrupted her and said
“No, that’s not what mother called for” and repeated myself. She spoke
over the top of me and said “I’m in charge of what is written at this
end, not you”. I was muted several times and handed over to her
manager etc until eventually I hung up in tears.
A week later, my son was sent a letter stating he had to pay back 6
months worth of benefits – that is – 6 months prior to the date he
started sweeping floors. I suspect he’s almost finished paying it
today and it can’t be recovered but thought it was note-worthy for the
purpose of the exercise. The next part is what grinds my gears right
My son demonstration of initiative paid off and, ultimately, he
obtained the necessary training and qualifications required of the
(currently growing and under skilled) industry to operate as a full
time skilled employee. In fact, he went one better and became a
specialist in laser technologies associated with the industry. That
was until the government introduced new laws which meant, if he
continued being employed by his current employer, he would never work
in the industry again. So he quit and started paying back the
Along with those new laws came a government license requirement at a
hefty $800 and no guarantee of obtaining it, regardless of skill level
or niche. Like Leah, his employment agents keep saying they can’t pay
for the license and I’ve written to my local members numerous times
over the years trying to get some action on it, to no avail.
My son has been cut off his payments every couple of months for as long
as I can remember for much the same reasons/patterns as Leah. He was
cut off again last fortnight because, one street away from his
appointment venue he had a panic attack and refused to get out of my
car. We had a huge meltdown with each other and he swore at me and ran
away. The last time he did this (last year) I found him under a
bridge with a rope in his hand saying he’d be better off hanging,
which I reported to the Minister via my local member.
I just can’t keep pushing the government’s agenda down his throat
anymore. It’s literally killing him! I don’t support pushing him into
jobs where, by default, he can’t perform and will undoubtedly be fired
over and over again, thus diminishing what little self-respect he has
He’s not even allowed to advocate ASD on his resume, they keep saying
it’s a negative attribute but I’m telling you, if you want super-human
skills and abilities in this industry he’s the right man for the job.
As far as we see it, he worked very hard to get where he is and
deserves an opportunity to work in his chosen career.
I don’t understand why we can’t simply accept he’s only ever going to
have one single skill that he’s good at and help him back on his feet.
He can walk into a job tomorrow, there has never been any shortage of
offers, it’s only ever been the government stopping him.