robo-debt centrelink
(Image: AAP/Julian Smith)

On the topic of Newstart stagnation (another jilted subject of the 2019 federal budget) Crikey received an overwhelming number of responses from older readers who have found the requirements of the system plainly unworkable and the benefits deeply insufficient, particularly after decades of hard work and health issues have taken their toll. Reading their responses, a common image emerges: an entire class of Australians who have been forgotten by the Australian government year after year.

On Newstart

Dean Winwood writes: I could speak for hours. I am currently on the dole due to my age and length of time on Newstart; being threatened with losing my payment immediately if I refuse to accept their terms and conditions on the basis of inappropriate, incompetent or inadequate work and training conditions. This is only after applying for over 250 jobs with not one interview granted — from the cheapest and nastiest of jobs to jobs that are much more closely aligned to my previously very successful 30 years of experience.

Carole Taylor writes: I am a 53 year old woman trying for 4 years to get a full time permanent job. After back operations killed a number of other appropriate areas of employment, I am still unable to find full time employment. 

Deb Engelhardt writes: I am a 59 year old unemployed woman living in Bundaberg in a high unemployed area. While I am grateful for Newstart it is grossly inadequate when you pay $220 per week in rent. Being long-term unemployed causes much despondency and despair plus running into people who say we are lazy and don’t want to work. Without my super to top up day-to day-living I could not run a car or look for work. Many older women do end up in poverty.

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Terence Ling writes: I am now 62 years old, worked most of my life and went on Newstart about 2012. My take-home from Newstart was $538 per fortnight. $350 per fortnight for rent, which left $188 for electricity, car registration, fuel, repairs, clothes, toiletries. If you do not seek work you are continually reminded (threatened) that your allowance can be terminated. I’m not on Centrelink now — I need to get back on the system but what is the point.

Pat Turner writes: I am a 64 year old lady who was made redundant in 2015 after 30 years of continual work within the disability sector. I am house-bound, use a walking stick and walking frame and can manage to walk about 30 metres. I can no longer drive as I can no longer feel my feet nor can I turn my head safely. Newstart is not enough money to live on when it is the sum total of your income. It is meant as a supplementary income as you seek employment and are supported by your family. If you are older (aging), single and have mobility issues, health and support needs, it is patently inadequate. It is ludicrous to think that we who rely on Newstart must swallow the system perception that it is enough for those of us unable to work. It is time to acknowledge that there is a group of us who should be on the equivalent of the DSP until we are old enough to go onto the aged pension.

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