(Picture used with permission: Landon Bryce – thautcast.com)
The Oxford Dictionary defines “cognitive dissonance” as
the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes.
In this country, there seems to be a rampant cognitive dissonance when it comes to people with a disability and employment.
On the one hand, we have politicians sprouting dribble about getting people on the disability pension back into work, and enforcing this through legislation that requires work participation in order to qualify for benefits should it be deemed that they are capable of work.
And when this new legislation came about, it seemed that there were two sides to the debate (as there usually is) – those that wanted those lazy bastards working; and those that recognised that many of those “lazy bastards” were not staying home out of a desire to overdose on mind-numbing Dr Phil repeats, but were either completely incapable of working, or completely incapable of finding a job.
People want those with a disability to work. And I have been part of conversations where people have stated their approval of this new legislation, practically in the same breath that they abuse those who are “rorting the system”. However, this is where the cognitive dissonance comes in… those same people, once knowing your personal disabling situation, agree that you should not have to work.
On the one hand – people with a disability should be working. On the other hand – people with a disability that I personally know or converse with, should be exempt.
Either it is a good idea or it is not. It can’t be a good idea, except for those any given taxpayer personally knows, because every person with a disability knows a taxpayer.
Here is where some more cognitive dissonance comes into the debate. People who employ people are often the first to verbally abuse people on welfare of any kind (unless you talking about tax breaks of course). However I would like to ask them all personally – how many people with a disability do you employ?
Jessica Brown, who handed people with a disability their arses in her article at The Punch: We Must Crack Down On The Disability Support Pension, is among many many Australians who need to be slapped with the wet fish of reality. She states that
Recipients with severe and profound incapacities should not be required to develop a participation plan, but they should be supported if they choose to do so.
Guess what? They are already!
To use myself as an example: A couple of years ago, I decided that I needed to work. So I made the necessary phone calls and booked an appointment with my local disability employment agency. I went along to a couple of meetings with them, after which it became clear that they were simply going through the motions. I asked them straight out – “What are my chances of finding work?”
None. No chance of finding work. They were going through the motions simply because they had to. Possibly, having me on their books secured them some government funding. Who knows?
I am capable of working. That’s not the problem. The problem is that no one will hire me. I can not work on specific days, nor can I work full-time. I require work which allows me to work a certain number of hours per fortnight, or even month, but not at any set time as my condition fluctuates unpredictably. Those types of jobs, especially for someone with no qualifications, are extremely rare.
Legislation that is targeted at the Disability Pension is targeted in the wrong place. Employers do not like to hire people with a disability as a general rule. Indeed, it was only recently that I had a go at the NDIS campaign for lacking in this area. If a campaign aimed at helping people with a disability refuses to employ people with a disability, then how can we expect other employers to?
Miss Jessica also goes on to sate that
The growing difference between disability and unemployment benefits – currently $130 a week a growing – must be addressed.
Yeah. Ok. Some of you might be wondering what she means by that. Well, here it is, from SMH: Higher Dole Should Come As Bonus To Serious Job Seekers Only.
Although there is a substantial financial incentive to move to the disability pension…
There is this belief that people move from Newstart to the Disability Pension because the Disability Pension pays more. It does pay more. There is also none of that pesky looking for work every fortnight requirement. However this argument is crap. In a recent “crackdown”, over 12000 people on the Disability Pension were medically reviewed, with only 135 having their payments stopped. 1.125% were found to be not eligible, but receiving benefits anyway. If you assume this figure applies to the remaining number of people on the Disability Pension (1.125% x 624 000 total = 7020), work out the difference between the Disability Pension and Newstart (which they would otherwise be on) per fortnight ($712 – $492 = $220), you realise that the money spent on people receiving the Disability Pension when they shouldn’t be is approximately $1 544 400 per fortnight. The figure if each person is part of a couple is $645 840. So the real figure is somewhere between.
This amount is not to be sneezed at, to be sure. And for the amount to be saved, it seems a good idea to check and ensure that those on the Disability Pension should actually be eligible.
However, to insinuate that lowering the Disability Pension to the rate of Newstart is a good idea lacks any humanity at all. And here is why:
Having a disability costs more money than looking for work ever will, as a general rule.
Sure, there are some outspoken “I’m right Jack” types who loudly proclaim that they are on the Disability Pension while able to save enough to go overseas every year. However for most people with a disability, basic health care is out of their reach. Take my own case. I have medications to pay for (which are cheap enough due to my pension card). I also have supplements to get, some of which are quite expensive. I do not take these to give me a bit of a boost – blood tests reveal I am dangerously low in Vitamin D, however as I (probably) have Dysautonomia, I cannot be out in the sun for long without feeling very ill. Regardless of how much meat I eat, I am low in Iron, and I also take Glucosamine for pain, and a few various supplements to try and increase the effectiveness of collagen in my body. None of these things are on the PBS – I pay the same as everyone else. I also have to pay for over the counter pain medication, splints, heat packs, bandages, a CPAP machine trial, a trip to Brisbane for an overnight sleep study to qualify for a CPAP machine, a multitude of gap fees to see specialists, petrol to see specialists (all of which are at least an hour each way), my walker, and home modifications and living aids. Oh, and extra electricity because I need to have the air conditioner running in summer, and the heater running in winter. We also need to employ a cleaner out of our own pocket.
And that is just me. My two children also have two disabilities each that require us to spend up. One of whom is going without.
There are at least three specialists I should see ASAP, however I simply can’t afford it. I also need a wheelchair to get out of the house most days, but as I do not yet require one to get around my house, I do not at this stage qualify for MASS funding. And so I sit here at home and gradually go quite mad.
Back to cognitive dissonance… I doubt anyone calling for the Disability Pension to be lowered to encourage people to find work would have the balls to tell me that I shouldn’t see the specialists that I need to see. However when not faced with a personal story, they seem quite fine to proclaim their opinion as if they have a clue what they are talking about. It is quite frightening and amusing at the same time, to see such stupidity.
The Disability Pension is already low enough that I am desperate to find work, not only because I am wasting a perfectly good brain, but because I need the money to have some sort of quality of life. The problem is not with people being lazy arse little shits – the problem is that even those people with a disability who could work, find it difficult to find anyone who will employ them.
However I guess it’s easier to kick someone when they are down, then it is to tell employers to grow a conscious, pull their finger out, and start addressing the problem themselves, instead of bitching about the waste of their taxpayer dollars.