Dealing with Centrelink is a full-time job for someone applying for a Disability Support Pension (DSP), especially someone the department won’t recognise as disabled (despite a string of doctors and therapists who do), which means they push you to the (cheaper) New Start counter.

From there you are sent for a series of appointments with outside assessors whose assessments (“totally stuffed, no hope of working”) are ignored in the hope that by requiring more and more assessments, one of these assessors, one day, will write to say that the unfortunate person is “possibly” capable of some unidentified and unspecified job.

Meanwhile, all avenues to disallow a DSP are explored and every opportunity taken to say “Go back to the end of the line”. This includes non-attendance at any interview or not bringing completed paperwork to the interview. For someone with brain damage, serious health issues, poor eyesight and little mental stamina, this makes it easy for Centrelink staff to exploit as a means to denying a DSP. All the while, the individual continues to spend precious savings on taxis and public transport (without a positive assessment by ACAT — see below — he can’t obtain subsidised transportation) going to pointless interviews and assessments, just becoming increasingly disillusioned and frustrated — which are not good things if you are already suffering physical and mental disabilities!

And then there is Federal Health’s ACAT process. Heap of crap looking for any excuse to disallow anyone younger than 65 (subject is 60). They say “Go to NSW Health; DADHC”. DADHC says “Too disabled and requiring too much full-time care for us, see ACAT”. Then you have an investigation done into the whole ACAT process, get to make comments on that report to the two health workers/administrators who prepared it, before it goes upstairs (June 2009) and then, despite a series of emails to the upstairs person, cannot even elicit an acknowledgement of your correspondence, let alone a reply!

To fill in spare time while this is all not happening (I still waste four hours a night by sleeping) you write to Macklin, Della Bosca and Roxon … and Bill Shorten sends you a two-page press release (outlining all the things Rudd has promised — none of which apply to the case at hand) top and tailed with three patronising sentences. And he spells his minister’s name Roxton. My response to him was a gem!

Meanwhile, because no one wants to take ownership of the individual, you bring him home (February 2009), when his private health insurer won’t pay any longer for rehabilitation on the grounds that he is not getting any better. At home he is living with his family (ages 92 to 13) and do your best to look after him until your own health suffers (July 2009) and you have to place him in a serviced apartment … where he is today, making a full-time job of trying to deal with Centrelink. And thus the world goes around!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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