Contributed from Queensland
The trouble with Centrelink is more than the current unfair debt recovery system. There is more going on. The victimization carries through to the way the whole of the Centrelink operation. Attention needs to be put to overhauling the whole welfare system in Australia.
The latest case to get some public attention is the case of Doug Stubbs in Brisbane, who has been told by Centelink that he doesn’t quality for a disability pension and is therefore fit to work. He happens to have had his arm amputated and has an acquired brain injury, sustained when he had a stroke, while riding his motorbike.
The 55-year-old former transport operator has since been cared for by his wife, Sue, and undergone a series of surgical and specialist procedures.
In addition to the denial of income, the refusal to grant him the disability pension also denies Doug access to the health services he needs. The pension covers the cost. Without it, the cost is probative.
Doug appealed, but as is usual with the Centrelink, the review officer working with the unfair points system, ruled against him. He did not score enough points on the table. The refusal to provide a disability pension also means that his wife will not quality for a cares allowance.
“While I accept that your right, dominant hand is non-functional as a result of the amputation, there is no objective medical evidence to indicate that there is a severe functional impact on activities like turning the pages of a book, using a pen or pencil or using a keyboard or carrying most objects with your functional arm,’’ the officer said.
The department believed he could work at least 15 hours a week in a sedentary role and put him on Newstart, which means almost half the payment and having to constantly jump through loops to justify it.
Doug will not find a job. His capacity is seriously limited. With this and his age, no employers is likely to take him on. These are factors that would be considered in a fair system.
The Stubbs have taken their case to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.