Part of having a disability is asking for help. So we have. We asked Blue Care (actually, we were referred by another organisation, so it wasn’t even really us asking at all) – for help with cleaning. Because at the moment we are having to pay someone privately and as I am entitled to domestic assistance, I thought it was high time we actually received a little.
The lovely (and I do mean awesome!) nurse that came out to visit suggested I also see a social worker (through their service). As I have not been coping of late, I thought this was a fine idea and so we set up a meeting. At that meeting, the social worker (another lovely awesome woman) suggested we put in an application to waive the fees that Blue Care will charge for cleaning and the speech therapy that I am going to start receiving next month. It all adds up, and she thought this may help us a little.
Since she has put in that referral, I have had three phone calls from Blue Care, wanting to know why I am putting in for waiver when I can obviously afford a private cleaner. I have explained, three times, that we really can’t afford a private cleaner, but we have no choice – with three asthmatics, the house needs to be dusted. Obviously, toilets and bathrooms need to be cleaned and sheets need to be changed. BJ is a carer for three people – he’s not superman and he is quite often sick and/or injured himself. I have gone through Disability Services Queensland assessment, and been found eligible for help, but they have no money to pay for it (or some shit – no one will actually tell me how it all works).
It seems, from the questioning, that help will not be given if we continue to keep on our private cleaner. Thankfully it hasn’t been stated outright as we are going to have to keep her on. Blue Care will not dust as they consider dusting “cosmetic” and not essential health and safety related cleaning. Again – I have three asthmatics in this house, a dirt road outside and wind that brings all that dirt right into my house. We need the house to be dusted as often as possible. They also won’t clean windows, or walls, or doors, or above the fridge or cupboards where oil and dust settles in the kitchen. Someone has to do it, and we can’t. I don’t mind that Blue Care will not. I do mind that they expect me to live in a disgusting hovel or else forgo financial assistance.
We are raising two kids on the pension (the income support part of our payments equals less than half the minimum wage for one person). It’s simple math. There isn’t much to go spreading around.
Now, I don’t mind them asking if we are on a pension. I don’t mind showing them my pension card. I don’t mind them asking a few questions.
Three phone calls is too much. Three phone calls borders on harassment. And the last phone call – she wasn’t bitchy per se, but her tone certainly was. She “didn’t understand”. She practically accused us of trying to rip off the system. She finally agreed to a three month trial, with a review at that point “in case things get better”.
I have a degenerative condition sweetie. Things are not going to get better. And I told her this. And she insisted that things might improve.
Afterwards, I had quite the conversation with someone whose understands why my finances would be under the microscope. Especially when people have technology and stuff, and then apply for financial assistance.
This is a house filled with technology, so that comment hit me hard, and I found myself “justifying”. We have four computers, two iPads, an iPhone, a Wii and a Playstation 3. One computer has been made into a media player for the television (I love having a techie husband). One is for my husband, one is for me, and the boys share one. My husband, when he works, works in IT and some of that work has been working with financial stuff (think credit card numbers) – not the sort of thing you want your kids playing on even if it is locked down pretty tight. Mine is a laptop because I can’t sit at a desk. The kids is BJ’s old computer. As an IT expert, his computer needs to be fairly up to date (though his last one still cost less than a grand) – so the kids got the old one. The media player was my old one that I can no longer use as it is a desktop one and I can’t sit at a desk any more for any length of time (plus I need something to do while I’m stuck on my arse on the couch all day).
The two iPads were bought for Occupational Therapy. As was the Wii. They are therapy tools first, games consoles second.
The Playstation was a Christmas present.
The iPhone costs me the same as any other phone (I got a good deal), won’t be upgraded until it dies, and is my safety net for when I get stuck. Like the time I got stuck in Brisbane Queen Street Mall for three hours and couldn’t call anyone. Even if I can’t call someone, at least I can play some games until I can get my hips back in.
And ALL of it was bought when my husband was working. And paying taxes.
So screw that argument.
In the interest of full disclosure, we also have three televisions. Two of them were gifts. The main one in the lounge we bought when the one we had (over ten years old) died in the arse. It’s small-average size.
My own counter argument – everyone gets financial assistance and no one else gets treated this way. Families get FTB A and B without anyone wanting to see their budgets. Parental leave is given freely. Carer’s Allowance is $115 a fortnight, and you can receive it with no income or assets test, and no questions asked as to whether you “need” it or not. We have universal health care and education (per se *cough*) and no one has to “prove” that they can’t afford to pay privately before using it.
No one gets treated like shit. No one gets multiple phone calls “just checking that you do in fact require this assistance”.
I get that people rip off the system and/or claim for shit they don’t need. Like people earning over $200k who claim Carer’s Allowance (which they are fully entitled to do and good luck to them). I get that people bitch and moan until someone pays for everything they need and they end up with better lifestyles than people who work for a living.
That is not us. For starters – any chance I have been able to work, I have. Any chance my husband has been able to work, he has. We have both paid taxes. We have both paid into the system. We have always had all the insurance we can get our hands on (which unfortunately has never been income protection, because no one would insure us), because we believe that if you can, it is the right thing to do. If something happens and you were just too cheap to pay for insurance, we don’t believe it’s right to stick your hand out (not for more than the basics anyway – I would never begrudge anyone the basics, no matter their choices).
So for BlueCare, and anyone else who thinks that we should be declaring our income and expenses to tax payers before receiving $20 a month in assistance, here is our budget and expenses.
The thing about the $10 here and there… they all add up. And they all come out of the $350 I have for groceries.
So if you are the type that judges people on benefits if they have technology, think – maybe they bought it back when they were working. Maybe they bought it with their bonus money because they spend most of their time on the lounge due to pain and illness, and think it’s better to go online and do something (like volunteer work or read up the latest research on their kids medical conditions), rather than watch Dr Phil. Maybe the iPads their kids have were given to them by the government because their kids have Autism (we bought ours because we could at the time, but we are still eligible for one for Quinn if we need to replace his for some reason). Maybe they have relatives who give a damn and buy them nice things for Christmas. Maybe they go without clothes and shoes and jewelry and hair cuts and going out and having a drink on the weekend or going anywhere on the weekend, so that they can buy their kids a PS3 for Christmas. Maybe they need an air conditioner because Mum has Dysautonomia and it’s either put the air con on during summer, or live in hospital during summer.
And heaven forbid someone with a disability might want a hobby. Do you think BlueCare needs to know that I just bought the kids a proper kids archery set (NOT compound lol) because they want to do that as a sport instead of hockey next year? Do I need to get someone’s permission for every purchase, or risk being treated like shit next time I ask for help?
I once talked to someone in the services sector about how guilty I felt asking for help. We had just bought a new lounge (the old one was too low and I was dislocating fairly regularly getting in and out of it), and I felt guilty about asking for help when we had just bought a new lounge. An item that for most people, would be a luxury (a new lounge when the old one wasn’t broken is a luxury right?). It was a fairly cheap lounge – certainly the cheapest we could find that was appropriate (right height, firm etc). Still, I felt bad and expressed my concerns to her. She told me that because a lounge is a “normal” expense that there was no organisation in Australia that would ever buy me one, so I had to save my money for that sort of thing. She told me that it was ok – that just because I had a disability now and couldn’t work, it didn’t mean that I had to stop living or that I had to accept the worst of everything. I didn’t have to become a bogan. Thank goodness!
Yet -that is what people expect. They expect me to get my clothes from Vinnies (sorry – tried but there’s never anything there in my size). Instead, I wait until Autograph have a special and pay about the same anyway! They expect me to wear crappy shoes. Instead I choose to wait until Colorado have a sale, and I only have one pair for winter and one for summer. My current pairs (both bought at the same time) are going into their fourth year and still going strong! And I have paid less than I would have paid buying $30 shoes that only last a couple of months (tried that one before). I buy good quality on sale, and end up paying less in the long run. My kids clothes are usually from Target – when they have sales, I can get items for around $3 each, so I buy in advance. It’s not the latest style by the time they fit, but it’s good quality, and each item easily lasts both kids!
So yeah – to look at me, it may seem that I am living it up on your hard earned tax dollars. Keep in mind these two things…
1. I paid my taxes too, and so did my husband.
2. It looks like this because we are smart about how we spend our money. And we go without a lot. I can’t count the number of times many different people have asked me if I have caught this program or that program on pay tv… is pay tv a normal expense now? Seriously – it’s just assumed that we have it. We don’t.
You know what? I didn’t lose my humanity or my right to autonomy when I became disabled enough to require a full time carer and unable to work. I am so sick of justifying my very existence and every “need”; and expected to have no “wants” at all (let alone actually get a few). I am so sick of begging for help just to make it through the day. I am so sick of feeling like shit. My husband could choose to leave me and work and have the money to live a life – but he stays here and cares for me for $304.50 a week and he does so without a life and without complaint – saving tax payers a shitload!!!
So this is it. My last justification. My last stand on this issue for me personally. From here on, I will apply for what I like – if the answer is yes, great. If the answer is no, meh, whatever. If Blue Care want to say no to financial aide because they feel that I should be taking the money for cleaning out of my grocery money, or foregoing the two or three outings I get a year, then that is their prerogative – just don’t treat me like shit in the process of making that decision! From here on, I will spend my money how I wish and not feel guilty for living as normal a life as I can. And if, after my justifications and explanations, you still think that as a tax payer, I owe you some sort of “proof” that I am down in the gutter before receiving financial assistance, I have two words for you.