“My son has been cut off his payments every couple of months for as long as I can remember” – A Mother’s Story

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
Centrelink debt.

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.